The Future of Office 365 Communications is Nearly Here

Several months ago, Microsoft announced that its newest version of Lync would be released as Skype for Business. This move aimed to bring the familiar and intuitive interface of Skype to the powerful enterprise-grade security, compliance and control features built into Lync and Office 365. It was previously stated that the new client would be released “sometime in the first half of 2015” and we’re excited to report that this date is now right around the corner.


Conferencing view in Skype for Business. Source: Microsoft


Connectivity with Outlook. Source: Microsoft


Earlier today, Microsoft announced that the new version of the Office 365 service would begin rolling out in April. As well as providing a time frame for the official release, the company also provided a road map for big changes surrounding the service.

Unified Communication Capability, Built Right In

Starting this summer, Microsoft will begin a technical preview for enterprise-grade audio and video conferencing, with PSTN connectivity coming later in the year. What does this mean? This means that a select number of telecoms partnered with Microsoft (Verizon, AT&T and Telestra to name a few) will be able to provide direct connections to Skype for Business and Office 365, thus facilitating a true unified communications experience within the service.

This hybrid-ready aspect of Office 365 will be run through the recently announced Azure ExpressRoute to Office 365. In short, this service provides a fast and reliable link between your own Office 365 environment and outside sources, such as the above service providers, in order to create a secure connection through which information can be transferred. This feature of Office 365 is expected sometime in the third quarter of 2015.


New Tools for Communication

The last big announcement regarding the Skype for Business rollout, was a plan to bring a new line of teleconferencing devices to the market that would be optimized for the service. These tools are to be developed by Microsoft’s current communications hardware partners, Polycom, Crestron and Smart, and will be an expansion of the Lync Rooms Service (now titled “Skype Rooms Service”).

Few devices built for the new Skype have been unveiled, though Polycom has been able to showcase the first to be release later in 2015. This offering will be called the Polycom Roundtable 100, which will be geared towards small and midsized business teams. Polycom will also be the first company offering phones supporting the new PSTN capabilities to be built into Office 365.

What Now?

Though the bulk of these big changes are a ways off, there is no time like the present to begin preparing. Microsoft has recently released a technical preview of Skype for Business which current Lync/Office 365 subscribers can use to experience and test the new software. All that’s required is a download of the Office 2016 IT Pro & Developer preview to work alongside the program.

If you’re interested in how these new changes might be able to benefit your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out! As one of the foremost Office 365 partners around, we have all the information you need to learn more, and would be thrilled to help lend you a hand.

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