As expected, Microsoft officially launched a Skype for Business technical preview today at the Convergence 2015 conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This product will replace Lync in the market and as its name suggests, it picks up compatibility with Skype and some familiar Skype user experience elements.
Here’s what’s new.
New user experience. Skype for Business looks very much like the consumer Skype application, with the same buttons and icons for a consistent, familiar feel.
Call via work. Enterprise users can make voice calls from (but not to) the Skype for Business client: when a user places a voice call, it is routed from Skype for Business to the originator’s desktop phone. Then, once the call is connected, it is established with Skype for Business serving as a control panel, and the originator can manage their presence and call controls from Skype for Business.
Skype directory integration. Skype for Business users can access the hundreds of millions of Skype users by searching the Skype directory and adding contacts.
Call Monitor. As on Skype for consumers, Skype for Business provides a mini call monitor window that appears when the application isn’t active. That way, you can still monitor call progress, and mute and end calls, while doing other things on your PC.
Rate My Call. With this feature and Skype for Business Server 2015, administrators can collect call data, access standard reports, and export raw data for further analysis. (Yes, this is actually an on-premises-only feature.)
Call controls. As with Skype for consumers, Skype for Business provides quick access to a dial pad and call controls.
Emoticons. Skype for Business now includes the same set of emoticons found in the consumer version of Skype.
Office integration. As with Lync, Skype for Business integrates throughout Office so you can access your Skype for Business presence, IM, voice and video calls, and online meetings from relevant places in the suite.
The Skype for Business technical preview is only for the client app. Microsoft says it will ship the final versions of the new client, server and online services “starting in April.”