Microsoft makes Skype messaging more competitive

The latest Microsoft Skype messaging features bring needed improvements to the consumer app. But analysts say Skype for Business is unlikely to get the same attention this year.

Microsoft has yet to spell out its plans for Skype for Business, but the company has made it clear that messaging will be front and center in the consumer version of the communications software.

This week, Microsoft started rolling out an overhaul of Skype for consumers that makes it a stronger competitor against rivals Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat, which have had better messaging capabilities.

The latest Skype messaging improvements highlight how chat is taking on a bigger role within communications software, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "I expect you'll see Microsoft follow a similar path with Teams and Skype for Business, eventually merging them in the same way that RingCentral has made Glip the basis of its desktop collaboration client."

Indeed, the new Skype reportedly uses the same back-end infrastructure as Teams, which is Microsoft's cloud-based messaging-centric collaboration app. UC vendor RingCentral started on a similar integration path in 2015 when it acquired Glip, a team collaboration and messaging platform.

Teams is new, so it's unlikely to become a  Skype for Business replacement for some time, said Dave Michels, a UC analyst and TechTarget contributor.

"I have predicted that Teams will replace Skype for Business and [Microsoft] Yammer, but as Teams was only released a few months ago, it's really too early for such a call to be useful," he said. Yammer is a private social networking platform for business.

Better Skype messaging for consumers

In the near term, Microsoft is focusing on taking consumers beyond what remains the primary use of Skype -- audio and video calling. The company is hoping to change that by adding to Skype the bells and whistles found in many of its messaging competitors.

Microsoft has added features for taking and sharing video from within Skype messaging. Users can also add stickers, text and annotations to video. Other improvements include making add-ins and bots easier to access and install.

Microsoft plans to make the latest Skype available for Android devices first. In a few weeks, the company will roll out the app for iPhone devices. Versions for Windows and Mac personal computers will be available over the next few months.

Analysts do not expect Microsoft to make significant improvements this year to Skype for Business. The company is more likely to double down on Teams and release only incremental improvements for Skype for Business.

For example, in March, Microsoft added an auto attendant and call queues to the Skype for Business cloud PBX. The company also introduced a preview release of Skype for Business Online Call Analytics, an online dashboard that helps IT managers ensure call quality.

Next Steps

Planning for a Skype for Business deployment

Supporting Skype for Business on virtual desktops

Managing voice quality in Skype for Business

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