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Interop planned between Microsoft Teams, consumer Skype

The move to integrate Microsoft Teams and consumer Skype follows three years of sustained user demand for the feature.

Microsoft is planning to integrate Microsoft Teams with the consumer version of Skype so that users of each app can communicate with one another. However, the company backtracked on a promise to deliver the feature in the past and has yet to announce when the capability will launch.

Customers have been demanding the integration for nearly three years, with Microsoft finally announcing in an online forum last month that the feature was in the works. A Microsoft representative declined to provide additional details for this story.

The inability to communicate with people on consumer Skype has frustrated businesses as Microsoft pushes them to abandon Skype for Business, which integrates with the consumer offering, in favor of the cloud-based messaging and meetings app Microsoft Teams.

It's yet another capability supported in Skype for Business that's still missing from Teams, despite the company's marketing apparatus declaring last year that the two apps had achieved feature parity.

The lack of integration between consumer Skype and Teams may be preventing some businesses from fully migrating to Teams, said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, analyst at 451 Research.

"This is not only cumbersome, it also means they will not be able to fully displace Skype for Business," Castañón-Martinez said. "This will be perceived as an unfinished deployment by users, as well as IT."

A November 2016 post on a Microsoft Teams user feedback site requesting federation between Teams and consumer Skype has received more than 2,300 votes of support and 475 comments. Many IT commenters said their Skype for Business users communicate with external contacts, such as customers, on consumer Skype.

Microsoft has waffled on whether to support the integration over the past two years. In early 2018, the company said the union could launch as soon as the second quarter of that year, but went back on the promise in May 2018, blaming "a priority shift" that caused the engineering team to shelve the item.

The company reopened its review of the feature request in February 2019 before officially marking it as "planned" in June. However, Microsoft has yet to add the item to its public roadmap for Teams, a step that would include projecting a release date.

Microsoft has been the most aggressive of the leading unified communications vendors in pressuring customers to move to the cloud -- a strategy that has rankled many businesses.

Microsoft customers have complained in particular about poor interoperability between Teams and Skype for Business and about Teams' lack of advanced calling features, although Microsoft has hurried to close many of those gaps over the past year.

Microsoft began automatically migrating small businesses from cloud-based Skype for Business Online to Teams last year -- and blocked new small business customers from signing up for cloud-based Skype. This month, the vendor is auto-installing the Teams desktop client on all Windows devices linked to existing Office 365 subscriptions.

In contrast, Cisco has continued to expand the features of its on-premises messaging client, Cisco Jabber, and has begun highlighting the app's growth as part of its overall marketing strategy.

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