Microsoft wants to become your phone company, at least for for voice.
Redmond's new ambitions emerged on Monday with the announcement of just how its bringing together the telephony bits it used to call Lync and Skype.
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Microsoft will soon offer a cloudy PBX, allowing connection of calls between the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and Skype clients on desktops and mobile devices. Microsoft will offer “managed calling plans and phone numbers”, taking conventional telcos out of the loop. The PBX and calling plans are US-only to start, but Microsoft's promising to bring this to other countries real soon now.
Another new offering Skype Meeting Broadcast, which does what it says on the can for up to 10,000 people. There's also a new PSTN Conferencing tool that allows folks on normal boring phones or Skype for Business to join the same voice and/or video conference. Dial-in numbers for 45 countries are promised.
Microsoft's pitching this straight at IT, suggesting that as they already administer Office 365 they might as well administer voice telephony too. It's also suggesting that it's a pain to work with a telco for voice, a conference call provider for conference calls and an online collaboration outfit. Putting all your eggs into Office 365 is Redmond's preferred arrangement.
Microsoft is going over the top of telcos, but not leaving them entirely out of the loop: Microsoft's called out BT Global Services, Orange Business Services, SoftBank, TATA Communications and Telstra as partners that can provide “high-quality network connectivity and managed services that help customers get the best experience with the new Skype for Business services.”
Cloud PBXs are nothing new. Deep integration between a cloudy PBX, a huge softphone ecosystem spanning the majority of computing devices, the PSTN and cloudy productivity apps is novel.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about this announcement is a fluffy line Microsoft's used to promote it. That line declares Skype “a verb synonymous with video calling.” Microsoft's Lync quietly impressed a lot of users, but never quite got much credit for its functionality or strong adoption rates. Skype's big brand, however, seems to be as important to Microsoft as it heads into this new market as the services themselves. Just don't mention the lengthy outages, okay? ®