Meeting broadcasts, landline and mobile dial-ins, and cloud-hosted PBX are a few of the features that Skype will be previewing for its business customers this summer. The Internet communications company took the wraps off its Skype for Business preview version Wednesday, giving clients a sneak peek at the new features while the company works out some final kinks and solicits customer feedback.
Microsoft, Skype’s parent company, launched the latest version of Skype for Business earlier this year with the promise that new enterprise-grade features would be coming in the summer. Clients interested in testing the new functions will have to sign up for the preview program.
Town Hall Meetings and Landline Dial-in
Because it's a pre-release program, Skype said it will not be able to accept all applications, although the company said its goal is to allow as many people as possible to participate before making the next general release. Not all features will necessarily be included in the final version, the company said.
Of the various enterprise features Skype is previewing, one of the most appealing to businesses may be Skype Meeting Broadcast. The feature enables organizations to broadcast meetings to up to 10,000 people, who can attend from browsers on most devices.
Meeting broadcast is designed to make it easy for companies to host large, virtual town hall-style meetings and public webinars. The preview includes integration with Bing Pulse, for real-time polling and sentiment tracking, and Yammer, to enable attendee dialogue during the broadcast.
Another major new feature the company is testing is PSTN (public switched telephone network) Conferencing to allow people invited to Skype for Business meetings in Office 365 to join the meetings by dialing-in using landlines or mobile phones. The new capability should be particularly useful to employees who need to connect from locations without Internet access. Enterprises that want to preview the feature must be Office 365 clients located in the U.S.
Skype is also touting its new Cloud PBX service. This feature is available to Office 365 customers in the U.S. that are also using PSTN and will let users make and receive traditional phone calls directly from their Skype for Business clients, and manage those calls with traditional enterprise phone features like hold, resume, forward and transfer.
The new functionality is built on the existing enterprise voice technology available in Lync Server and Skype for Business Server. The company said it plans to ship Cloud PBX to customers around the world starting in the fall, with an option to use existing on-premises phone lines for inbound and outbound calling.
To access the Cloud PBX service while it is in the preview phase, both callers will have to be located in the U.S. for now. However, educational and government clients will not be able to access the feature.