For the past 4 years I’ve been saying the same thing. Microsoft is going for a cloud-based communication offering that gives Small to Medium businesses a way to replace and/or integrate their phones with their devices (mobile as well as traditional desktops/laptops/tables).
Ok each year I said “It’ll happen next year.” Well, it looks like next year is here. Mostly.
They’ve certainly been busy over the past several years. First, Microsoft migrated their on premise communications tools (originally Communicator, LiveMeeting) to the cloud. They did that with BPOS (Office 365’s predecessor). Next they purchased the consumer “phone” app Skype. Then they released Lync, which was a much more powerful combination of Communicator and LiveMeeting. Earlier this year they rebranded Lync as Skype for Business.
First is expanding Skype for Business to make it a full meeting environment. So here’s what’s being added in the next few months:
1> Adding the capability for Skype for Business to host very large (as in thousands) meetings, where attendees can join from most any browser/device combination.
2> Phoning it in. Skype for Business had a long-standing limitation of not allowing people to just call into a meeting to hear the audio on a traditional phone line. That option is now being added.
3> Improved experience. Options like “meet now” for groups, real-time co-authoring.
4> Systems. Actual devices specifically to take advantage of Skype for Business.
These additional features will be added to existing Enterprise level subscriptions (E1 and E3) without additional charge, effective Dec 1st, 2015. No word yet as to whether the Business level 365 subscriptions will be similarly “enhanced.”
Next is the Cloud PBX. This is the ability to have Office 365 as your effective “phone server.” Office 365 becomes, in effect, your organizations phone system. Parts of this will be rolled out on December 1st as well, but much of the functionality will wait until 2016.
We're scheduling a webinar to announce these and other changes to Office 365 (including changes to OneDrive). the tentative date is Tuesday, 24 November at 2pm eastern.