In April, Microsoft began rolling out the recently rebranded Skype for Business and mentioned new features would be coming over the summer. And today the Skype for Business team announced that the technical preview of Skype for Business is starting today for Office 365 enterprise plan customers.
The Office blog listed three key new features that will be generally available through the end of the year for technical preview members. The features listed today are:
- Skype Meeting Broadcast, available to eligible Office 365 customers worldwide, enables broadcast of a Skype for Business meeting on the Internet to up to 10,000 people, who can attend in a browser on nearly any device. Skype Meeting Broadcast makes it easy to host large virtual meetings like internal “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.
- PSTN Conferencing, available in preview to Office 365 customers in the U.S., allows people invited to a Skype for Business meeting in Office 365 to join the meeting by dialing in using a landline or mobile phone. This traditional dial-in capability is in addition to simple, single touch join options on PC, smartphone and browser, and allows people to join an online meeting even in places with no Internet access. PSTN Conferencing in Office 365 will also allow people to add others to a meeting by dialing out.
- Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, also available in preview to Office 365 customers in the U.S., provides people the ability to make and receive traditional phone calls in their Skype for Business client, and manage these calls with features like hold, resume, forward and transfer. This preview is built on the proven enterprise voice technology available in Lync Server and Skype for Business Server. Later this year, we will ship Cloud PBX for customers worldwide, with a configuration option for customers to use existing on-premises phone lines for inbound and outbound calling.
These new features will enable companies to use Skype for Business to replace traditional phone lines and video conferencing services through either an Office 365 enterprise plan or Skype for Business Plan 2.
Moving a company’s traditional phone services and teleconferencing capabilities to the cloud has certain advantages, usually cost, but also brings concerns over connectivity and ensuring reliable reception as bandwidth is shared with other services. To help counter these concerns Microsoft also worked with 10 telecoms as strategic partners to offer Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. This will allow Office 365 customers to create private connections between their businesses and Microsoft datacenters to deliver more reliable performance. The new Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 will be available later this year to Office 365 Skype for Business customers.
If your organization is interested in trying out these new features before the general public, head over to the Skype for Business Preview page to register and start testing it today.