Microsoft updated the official Office blog with news that the Skype for Business client is no longer in beta (aka Technical Preview) and will make its debut this month in the April update for Office 2013. For customers using Office 365, Microsoft has also green-lighted Skype for Business Online, which is rolling out now and is expected to be fully distributed by the end of next month.
So what is Skype for Business and how is it different from the consumer version? It's a "communications and collaboration platform" according to the company, providing services such as instant messaging, voice and video calls, and online meetings. However, it also includes "enterprise-grade security, compliance and control," the blog said.
"Skype for Business is based on the familiar Skype experience that more than 300 million people use every month to connect with friends and family," the blog said. "It is built right into Office, so features like presence, IM, voice and video calls, and online meetings are an integrated part of the Office experience."
Microsoft provided an FAQ in its report stating that Skype for Business will automatically replace Lync Online for Office 365 customers. For those still using the Lync client, Skype for Business will become the default client by the end of May. Microsoft's blog also said that administrators will have the ability to switch from the Lync user interface to the new Skype for Business interface should companies need more time to adjust to the new client.
Microsoft provided two plans for Skype for Business. Online Plan 1 costs $2.00 per user per month and includes presence and group instant messages, the ability to transfer files in an instant message, and audio and HD video calling. Office Plan 2 is $5.50 per month and adds to group HD video calling, the ability to join meetings from desktop and web browsers, desktop application and whiteboard sharing, and more.
Skype for Business is also included in Server 2015. This version contains everything Online Plan 2 provides except for interoperability with third-party dial-in conferencing partners. However, this version provides persistent chat, dial-in audio conferencing, enterprise voice functionality and interoperability with video teleconferencing systems.
Companies looking for the nearest Skype for Business partner can head here. These partners can get Skype for Business up and running on your network and can even help deploy and manage the service.