Microsoft’s “Intelligent” Unified Communications Strategy
Microsoft recently announced that it plans to replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams. The announcement was made at Ignite, a Microsoft conference in Orlando, and comes as a result of the company’s new “intelligent communications vision” (ie. unified communications strategy). It has been anticipated since the initial launch of Microsoft Teams a year ago that Skype for Business would be soon to disappear, as functionality overlapped significantly between the two offerings. A new Skype for Business server will be made available in the second half of 2018 for those customers who are not ready to make the switch to Teams, but a statement from Microsoft has said, “We encourage all Office 365 customers to start using Teams, independently or in parallel with Skype for Business.”
What does this mean for customers?
Microsoft has laid out what it is calling a “roadmap” for customers to assess the capabilities of Teams relevant to their unified communications business needs and plan their move accordingly. In the words of Microsoft, this means that “customers can determine the timing for moving to Teams that best suits their needs”. Microsoft has used this answer to avoid giving any indication of when the deadline will be for Skype for Businesses users to make the switch to Teams.
Those customers reluctant to make the move to Teams straight away will still be able to use Skype for Business in the meantime and Microsoft will still be making a new Skype for Business server available in the latter half of 2018, with no plan to remove it from Office 365 in the near future. It has, however, stated that it will be ceasing any ongoing investment into Skype for Business, saying, “Our vision for bringing together Intelligent Communications and collaboration is focused on Microsoft Teams.”
What about Microsoft’s online voice capabilities?
Microsoft will be adding the Cloud PBX and voice capabilities currently available to Microsoft Teams, plus additional capabilities which had been part of Skype for Business in Office 365. It has been reported that this introduction will happen over time, with key functionality penned for the second half of the 2018 calendar year.
Will there be any new features in Teams?
Microsoft has boasted that this “intelligent” unified communications solution will include a new, people-centric chat. Users will be able to review their entire chat history with other users easily through the client or browser and it is alleged that searches will also be easier to execute. Microsoft announced at Ignite that it was working with Blue Jeans and Pexip to deliver cloud video interoperability.
Can I use my existing Skype Room System for my Unified Communications going forward?
An upgrade will be made available to all Skype Room Systems v1 (aka Lync Room Systems), which will enable them to join Teams meetings. Windows 7 will also be upgraded to Windows 10 on these systems in an effort to further secure the devices. This will, however, mean that touchscreen devices will lose certain functionalities that rely on access to touch features. This includes inking, PowerPoint annotation and Whiteboarding. The ability to start meetings through the front of room touch will also cease.
Advice from a Unified Communications Consultant
The positioning of Teams as Microsoft’s primary cloud collaboration solution will raise questions for all current Skype for Business customers. Do Teams influence the decision between cloud and on-premise Skype for Business deployments? When will it be the right time to introduce Teams as a Skype for Business replacement? As a specialist independent unified communications consultancy, 4C is ideally placed to assist with reviewing these, and other key strategic unified communications decisions, in the context of specific client requirements. If you would like advice from a qualified unified communications consultant, please feel free to call 4C Strategies on 01858 438938 or, alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org.