Microsoft Offers Preview of its Promised Cloud UCC Services
Microsoft has unveiled three Technical Preview programs, known to the rest of us as public beta tests, all of which are centered around the newly christened Skype for Business. Qualified U.S.-based Office 365 customers can get an early look at some significant new communications and collaboration capabilities that Microsoft suggests will be in general availability later this year. By applying at http://www.skypepreview.com/, customers will soon be able to preview:
Skype Meeting Broadcast: Announced in June, Skype Meeting Broadcast enables large scale video broadcasts, up to 10,000 viewers across the Internet. Skype Meeting Broadcast makes Skype for Business a competitor in the growing webinar market and fills a significant gap created by the end of life of LiveMeeting.
PSTN Conferencing: While Lync/Skype for Business has long supported audio conferencing, it has been limited to participants over IP. PSTN Conferencing addresses a significant functionality shortcoming, enabling people invited to a meeting to join via dial-in or dial-out over PSTN.
Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling: Office 365 customers will be able to make and receive phone calls to and from the outside world from Skype for Business, along with the traditional PBX functionality include call hold, forward and call. While limited to the U.S., Microsoft will provide phone numbers during the trial. Cloud PBX is expected to be available worldwide in the before the end of the calendar year, along with the capability to use a business’ existing on-premises circuits.
Our take: This is the day that industry watchers, customers and Microsoft partners have been waiting for. Skype for Business customers were required to either deploy servers on-premises, work with carriers offering hosted Lync or integrate in third-party PBXs to connect to the PSTN. Cloud PBX adds a new option directly from Microsoft itself. With this very public trial program, the company is putting customers and service providers on notice: Microsoft wants to be a carrier of voice services. The mere presence of Microsoft in the VoIP market will certainly alter the competitive landscape.
Cloud PBX also reminds us of the importance that businesses of all sizes place on voice. With the many available ways for businesses to communicate with their customers and suppliers, few are as ubiquitous as a phone call, and not even Microsoft can move customers away from the public switched telephone network.
What are your thoughts?