Microsoft unveils E5, an enterprise calling plan for Office 365

Consumers have been using Skype, Microsoft’s online text and video chat client, for over a decade. Even though Microsoft rebranded their business-friendly program, Lync, to Skype for Business, the target audience still has been slow to adopt the service. Today, Microsoft announced that they will be including a new bundle for the business-oriented Office 365. The new bundle, dubbed E5, is Microsoft’s bet on getting the corporate world to utilize yet another workplace tool from the company.

But why, with its apparent targeting of users, did Skype for Business and Lync not have the userbase Microsoft had hoped for? John Case, the corporate vice president of Office, felt that business-class phone service wasn’t ready in general. He is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that “Companies like Microsoft haven’t given [businesses] enterprise solutions they can bet on”, and E5 is Microsoft way of changing that.

E5 will be a new Office 365 bundle, with pricing starting at $35 for one user per month, which will include Office 365, as expected, with unlimited conference calls included in that price. Microsoft has also priced international calling at a $24 premium with this new bundle. Aside from just including new features and software into products that businesses might already pay for, Case discussed the ability of a business to use the service instead of traditional carrier-based and conference services.

In the United States, the carrier model is a strong one that people are familiar with and opt to subscribe to for business operations. In a similar way, PBX, or private branch exchange, phone service is ideal specifically for a business that deals with a lot of in-calling and cross-device communication such as managing mobile, landline, and online-based phone calls together.

Case has said that these features would be part of the E5 bundle, but the struggles of managing both carrier and conferencing service provider would be lessened by using Microsoft’s service. To challenge the hardware-level offerings that carriers provide, Microsoft has said that Polycom Inc. will be among the hardware makers to utilize the new calling plans and features coming with the new Office bundle for businesses.

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Do you think the new calling features will change the business calling landscape?