Skype for Business – moving to Skype?

Have Microsoft delivered on their promise to provide communication from the Living Room to the Boardroom? Honestly you’d have to say no. While they have technically joined the Consumer Skype world to the Skype for Business estate the integration is limited. The search capability is not intuitive enough and the largest miss is the inability of a Skype client to join a Skype for Business meeting.

There are very good technical challenges behind the limited integration. The clients and servers are completely different code and while Microsoft tried to bridge the divide initially they rightly decided to build a unified back end and client architecture. While we haven’t visibly seen this yet we are told the work continues at pace.

So here is my pure speculation – once the technical integration is complete Microsoft will look to move to a single brand and leave just Skype. Couple of things to say before I go on. I have zero inside knowledge on this so it is just my speculation. If I did have inside knowledge (as I did in the OCS to Lync change) I wouldn’t be writing this. Secondly the shift away from Gurdeep will bring in a new management team who bring new ideas so the journey that MS might have been going down might change.

Why haven’t they done it already? I don’t believe they could re-brand under a single Skype name until they have all their clients able to join any meeting and contact any user. Imagine I’m on the consumer version of Skype and I get invited to the Business version of Skype but when I attempt to join it says your Skype client can’t join a Skype meeting. Confusion would reign, hence why they have to keep the names separate.

So why do I think they are preparing this, what hints am I picking up?

The Skype team has launched several new capabilities this year aimed at or built on ‘for Business’ and yet not a single one has the ‘for Business’ appendage:

  1. Skype Rooms
  2. Skype Broadcast
  3. Skype Meetings

The new touted Slack competitor takes the Skype name but merely appends Teams

This effectively leaves the core clients, server and Office 365 service which uses the Skype for Business name.

But wait there is more….for the client there is a small change in the new Mac client which is using the new UI principles for Skype for Business. The Skype for Business Windows 2015 client had Make a Skype for Business Call (see below) yet the Mac has removed ‘for Business’.

This could well be just programming glitch, a very small feature that has not made its way over in the design or programming guide. Then I checked to see the Skype for Business Windows Office 2016 client and it has also reverted to Skype rather than Skype for Business. This is more than a simple glitch, someone has consciously chosen to amend the menu from Skype for Business Call to Skype Call.

Hot off the press the iOS Outlook App has been updated which now enables a user to create a Skype for Business meeting and this again stresses ‘Skype Meeting’ rather than Skype for Business.

It may be a simple case of unconscious re-branding and a confusion of Skype and Skype for Business but it may also be the case that Microsoft are gradually removing the 18 month old ‘for Business’ appendage and preparing the ground for just Skype.

Here is my closing thought on this, it is largely irrelevant if Microsoft re-brand or not to your end users. While we IT Pros know and use the different terminology I’d suggest over 90% of standard users just refer to it all as Skype and they get a little confused when they can’t currently Skype between Consumer and ‘for Business’. They typically just blame it on IT policy rather than technology.

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