Last month, Microsoft released a technical preview of Skype for Business, which it touts as a replacement for Lync, its old business-centric video chat app. Now, Skype for business is ready for a full roll out as part of its Office 2013 April update. Microsoft is now rolling out Skype for Business to its Office 365 customers using Lync Online.
Skype for Business carries Skype’s recognizable design, but what makes it different is that it integrates numerous Lync features. Those include the capability for online meetings, enhanced security and control tools for IT departments.
Because Skype for Business is built right into Microsoft Office, features like presence, IM, voice and video calls, and online meetings are integrated into Office. Also, with Skype for Business, users can search for and connect with anyone in the Skype network, inside or outside the user’s organization.
"Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync) is a communications and collaboration platform that brings together an experience inspired by Skype with enterprise-grade security, compliance and control," wrote the Skype For Business team on Microsoft’s Office blog. "It is built right in to Microsoft Office, so initiating chats, calls and meetings is an integrated experience within Office."
Since 2013, Microsoft has kept both Skype and Lync available, even with a lot of overlap between the two products. With Lync gone, there’s no telling how long Skype will be maintained as a separate product.
Screenshots released by Microsoft show Skype for Business video calls using the familiar Skype interface capable of connecting to a list of Skype or Lync contacts. Skype for Business will also keep the popover window that shows details of a call if a user moves to another application.
Microsoft said it will automatically update the Lync Online service to Skype for Business Online, and it expects to transition all customers by the end of May. Administrators for current Lync Online or Lync Server customers can control when the updated package is rolled out to their users.
In fact, administrators can switch between Skype for Business and the traditional Lync user interface during the roll-out period. For organizations using Skype for Business Online, administrators can use the Remote PowerShell in Office 365 to enable Skype for Business users to use the Skype for Business client or the Skype for Business (Lync) client user interface.
The default setting lets users employ the Skype for Business client user interface. If administrators would prefer to use the Lync client experience, they can manage the first launch client behavior to display the Lync user interface, but that process requires more steps.
Information on how to configure the Skype for Business client experience -- as well as more information about the features available in the new Skype for Business client -- is available at http://products.office.com/skype-for-business.