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Satya Nadella Keynote at Ignite 2017 Getty Images

Ignite 2017: Skype Gets a Boost -- And a Transition Plan to Teams

We are here at Microsoft Ignite this week in Orlando, Florida along with almost 25,000 attendees to hear the latest from Microsoft on the productivity, cloud, machine learning, and AI fronts.

Here is a snapshot of some of the big news announcements which began the week during the main keynote led by Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella.

What Was Announced

There are four big deals, all of which build upon one another:

  • Microsoft is promising "a new, modern Skype infrastructure delivering enterprise-grade voice, video and meetings experiences. It is already powering communication experiences in Microsoft Teams and is evolving rapidly. We are excited about this new infrastructure because it provides both speed of innovation as well as higher quality communication experiences."
  • They're also "evolving Microsoft Teams to become the core communications client in Office 365, replacing the current Skype for Business client in Office 365 over time."
  • They're releasing a new version of Skype for Business Server in the second half of calendar year 2018 for customers who are not yet ready to move their PBX and advanced calling capabilities to the cloud.
  • Finally, they're adding new calling features and meeting enhancements in Teams, including inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers, hold, call transfer and voicemail; audio conferencing preview, which enables participants to join a Teams meeting from any telephone; and interoperability between Teams and Skype for Business, including universal presence, and messaging and calling interoperability.

Why It's Important

Building out the Skype infrastructure and updating the Skype for Business Server makes sense -- not everyone is going to go rushing into the cloud and conference calls are still a primary form of communication in so many workplaces.

However, it's worth noting that Microsoft is really throwing resources at Teams. It's too soon to call it a Slack-killer, but it's certainly a Slack competitor and the fact that Microsoft is pushing Teams into the role of "core communications client in Office 365" suggests that they see a future in which a workforce is just as likely to ping people via collaborative spaces as they are to pick up the phone and call

Phone calls aren't going to go away. But Microsoft's not betting on them. They're betting on a hybrid of communications technologies for coworkers to communicate, and exchange files and ideas, and Teams' new prominence in the Office suite is another signal that Microsoft is serious about the "digital transformation."

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