When Microsoft launched Skype for Business earlier this year, I described our plans to deliver new Skype for Business voice and meetings capabilities in Office 365, beginning with a technical preview this summer. These new capabilities will enhance the existing Skype for Business experience, and allow us to offer a complete, enterprise-grade communications solution at global scale as part of Office 365.
I’m pleased to announce that the technical preview is here. Starting today, Office 365 enterprise customers can register for the following previews:
- Skype Meeting Broadcast, available to eligible Office 365 customers worldwide, enables broadcast of a Skype for Business meeting on the Internet to up to 10,000 people, who can attend in a browser on nearly any device. Skype Meeting Broadcast makes it easy to host large virtual meetings like internal “Town Hall” style meetings and public webinars. The preview includes integration with Bing Pulse, for real-time polling and sentiment tracking, and Yammer, to enable attendee dialogue during the broadcast.
- PSTN Conferencing, available in preview to Office 365 customers in the U.S., allows people invited to a Skype for Business meeting in Office 365 to join the meeting by dialing in using a landline or mobile phone. This traditional dial-in capability is in addition to simple, single touch join options on PC, smartphone and browser, and allows people to join an online meeting even in places with no Internet access. PSTN Conferencing in Office 365 will also allow people to add others to a meeting by dialing out.
- Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, also available in preview to Office 365 customers in the U.S., provides people the ability to make and receive traditional phone calls in their Skype for Business client, and manage these calls with features like hold, resume, forward and transfer. This preview is built on the proven enterprise voice technology available in Lync Server and Skype for Business Server. Later this year, we will ship Cloud PBX for customers worldwide, with a configuration option for customers to use existing on-premises phone lines for inbound and outbound calling.
In addition to these previews delivered by Microsoft, our strategic partners, AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Orange Business Services, TATA Communications, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone, we will deliver direct connections to Office 365 Skype for Business customers later this year through Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. ExpressRoute enables customers to create private connections between their premises and Microsoft datacenters, and offers more predictable network performance, the ability to better manage network availability, the reliability that comes with dedicated connectivity and additional data privacy.
Office 365 is the world’s cloud for productivity. Through these investments, we are making complete, enterprise-grade communications an integral part of Office 365. In doing so, we’re enabling people to connect with one another across all forms of human expression—verbal, written, visual and emotional.
With these new services, we will bring traditional calling and conferencing into the new era of workplace communications, and also add an entirely new way of communicating at much higher scale with much greater flexibility over the Internet. We can’t wait for you to try them!
To see a demonstration of the Skype Meeting Broadcast experience and learn more about how it works, watch this Office Mechanics video:
Frequently asked questions:
Q. What are the eligibility requirements to participate in the preview?
A. The Skype Meeting Broadcast preview is available worldwide to customers with an Office 365 enterprise plan or Skype for Business Plan 2. The previews of PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling are available in the U.S. to customers with an Office 365 enterprise plan or Skype for Business Plan 2.
Q. Can end users sign up for the trial?
A. No, the trial must be provisioned for the customer tenant by an Office 365 administrator. End users interested in trying the new services should contact their Office 365 administrator.
Q. Are interested Office 365 customers required to trial all of the services currently in preview, or can they choose to preview only a subset?
A. Eligible Office 365 enterprise customers may choose to trial any or all of the services now in preview according to the geographies where each preview is available.
Q. When will these services be generally available, and how will they be priced?
A. We expect to make these services generally available before the end of this year. We will share pricing and licensing details when we are closer to general availability.