Skype for business No More

by Dave Michels

There was a time when Skype for business meant something different than it does today. Today, it is the fourth name of Microsoft’s business UC platform. It was previously known as Live Communications Server (LCS), Office Communications Server (OCS), Lync, and now Skype for Business (Skype4B or SfB). Of course Skype4B evolved over the years – the current product is a blood relative to LCS – only related to consumer Skype by marriage.Skype_Logo

Before Microsoft acquired Skype it was an independent, disruptive application. The Uber of its day. Skype was growing in terms of users, usage, and global reach. The service was also expanding into business use cases. For a brief period, I think it was the Tony Bates era, Skype set its sights on business users.

Using ‘Skype for business’ was a cutting edge concept. Why run a business with expensive telecommunications equipment and services, when you can use Skype? No phones, no phone lines – but yes phone numbers and PSTN access with a rich set of UC features.

I remember one of the published testimonials. I think it was a surfboard shop that was using Skype for sales, support, and internal communications.

In order to position the service for business, it had to create a new level of admin. A business can’t just expect its employees to provision their own services (and take them away if/when they leave). The business needs to own and manage its phone numbers (and IDs). So, Skype created Managed Accounts which effectively introduced centralized group administration. It allowed Skype assets, such as an ID or phone number, to be assigned to specific users.

Post acquisition Microsoft initially struggled with how to position Skype. But it was clear from the get go that Microsoft saw Skype as a consumer service. The programs and marketing aimed at ‘Skype for business’ usage disappeared. There really wasn’t much confusion about this – it was Skype for consumers and Lync for business. The only problem was Skype had a better known brand. The easiest way to explain Lync was “it’s like Skype, but for business.”

Why bother explaining it – jut rename it. Renaming Lync to Skype for Business didn’t have any marketing conflict or overlap. Although Skype is frequently used in business settings, so are many other consumer apps such as Facebook and GMail.

There was lots of de-engineering of Skype. In addition to many of the new business features, it also lost many integrations and most of its ecosystem.  The only major app that integrates with Skype now (post acquisition of Skype) is Skype for Business.

I actually forgot about Skype’s managed accounts. Turns out they are still there, but not for long. Microsoft reminded me of them when they announced they are officially going away.  “From 29 March 2016, Skype Managed Accounts will transition to personal accounts. After this date, you can still use Skype Manager and create Skype Manager groups.”

So long Skype for business. Surf’s up for Skype for Business.

Related: Goodbye Lync