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Ignite 2016: Move your business communication to Skype

At the Microsoft Ignite Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, we announced several new Skype for Business innovations that enhance the Office 365 collaboration experience across devices and empower IT professionals to deliver modern communications to their end users. Read on for more about what we announced today.

The best user experience for workplace communication

Over the past year we’ve been working on making the best experience for communicating with others, across all the devices you use for work. We are excited to announce that the new Skype for Business for Mac will be available in October. The new client has been written from the ground up using the modern Mac programming language, Swift. It provides high-definition audio and video, in addition to features like one-click join for meetings and edge-to-edge video and desktop sharing to make full use of a screen.

As part of our efforts to build deeper native integration on iOS and Android, we’re also pleased to be rolling out enhancements to the Skype for Business experience on iPhone staring in October. Using the Apple CallKit framework, Skype for Business calls now work just like a cellular call on your iPhone. You can accept a call via the lock screen or put a Skype for Business call on hold to take a cellular phone call—it works just like a phone. Both clients deliver a first-class Skype for Business experience to Mac and iOS users.

We’re also pleased to announce that we’ll deliver a preview of real-time transcription and translation in Skype Meeting Broadcast by the end of 2016. Skype Meeting Broadcast in Office 365 lets you produce, host and broadcast meetings to large online audiences. These new services will provide live closed-captioning for presentations spoken in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese and German, and allow viewers to select their preferred language for captions. More languages will be released throughout preview.

The next generation of Skype Room Systems

Today, we’re announcing the next generation of Skype Room Systems (formerly Project Rigel). Skype Room Systems bring the Skype for Business meeting experience, with rich HD audio and video, to every meeting room. With the new Skype Room Systems, your team can work like you’re all in one place, quickly and easily join meetings, make phone calls, and instantly share content in the room and remotely—all from an elegant touch screen console device. Transform your meeting rooms and make any space a Skype meeting place. Logitech SmartDock for Skype Room System bundles are available to reserve today, and will start shipping in a few weeks. You can also reserve Crestron’s Skype Room Systems, shipping at the end of this year, and the Polycom MSR Series for Skype Room Systems, which will start shipping early first quarter of 2017.

We are also pleased to announce the preview of Polycom RealConnect Service for Office365. This service, hosted on Microsoft Azure, enables non-native video teleconference (VTC) systems from Cisco and others to join a Skype for Business meeting. This means you can keep your existing investments and non-Skype for Business endpoint devices can leverage Skype for Business Meetings all in a seamless experience.

The power of global availability and capability

With the scale of Microsoft, you can use Office 365 to manage your communications globally. For online meetings, today we are announcing the latest geographic expansion of PSTN Conferencing. Customers in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam can now purchase audio conferencing as part of Office 365. People can join Skype for Business meetings using local numbers from 90 countries and 400 cities across the globe—virtually everywhere. Default city numbers are available to every Office 365 customer, and customers can now acquire dedicated toll numbers or toll-free numbers in hundreds of cities across the globe via the Office 365 admin portal. Starting in October, we are also releasing previews of PSTN Calling in France and Spain for testing. PSTN Calling plans are already generally available in the United States, United Kingdom and Puerto Rico.

Office 365 administrators can decide where they want to provision their users for meetings. By the end of the calendar year, Skype for Business will support regionally hosted meetings. Users within multinational organisations can be provisioned in the data center region nearest to their physical location—reducing latency, delivering high quality media and keeping the data in the same region.

We’ve also been striving to create better experiences while users are in a meeting. Starting later this year, a new dynamic conference IDs feature will also be standard for all Skype for Business online meetings. Dynamic conference IDs provide a unique conference ID for each Skype for Business meeting, offering enhanced security and smoother transitions between back-to-back meetings. If a meeting organizer’s meeting is running long, the meeting will no longer be interrupted by a guest of the next scheduled meeting.

For voice services, Skype for Business Cloud PBX is already available worldwide, helping IT administrators realise significant operational efficiencies with a complete solution for user provisioning and call control in Office 365. Office 365 customers can use Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition to connect our Cloud PBX with your existing telephony environments using the telco carrier of your choice.

In October, we’ll roll out previews of Organisational Auto Attendant for call treatment and Call Queues for queuing and routing of inbound calls. Configured by the admin in the Office 365 admin console or through Windows PowerShell, these powerful features let customers quickly migrate entire offices to Cloud PBX for voice.

Lastly, by the end of the year, Skype for Business Advanced Analytics will be in preview. Advanced Analytics is a powerful single pane of glass that enables customers to manage their global communications using a complete set of tools that provide an end-to-end view of the Skype for Business online environment—from users to entire enterprise. Our most recent enhancement gives you built-in intelligence to optimize your network for the best end-user experiences and proactively drive adoption.

Deployment excellence with the Skype Operations Framework

With the launch of Skype Operations Framework (SOF), we are expanding on an end-to-end planning, deployment and operations methodology and tool set for Skype for Business. The framework provides a comprehensive guide and toolset for implementing and managing a reliable, cost-effective communications service with operational excellence. Today, we’re announcing the availability of the Cloud Migration release, which extends SOF and will play a critical role in helping our customers and partners migrate from current on-premises deployments to Skype for Business Online using the SOF lifecycle of Plan, Deliver and Operate. Our SOF Partners also play a critical role in helping customers plan, deliver and operate Skype for Business Online successfully. Since the launch of SOF, hundreds of organizations have undertaken SOF training, and leading partners, including Modality, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Avanade, Unify Square, Tata Communications and Carousel, now offer SOF-aligned services to customers.

Move your communications to Skype for Business Online today

Customers around the world rely on Microsoft for their communications. We power over 1 billion meetings per year, more than any other provider. Kelly Services, TRC, Cushman & Wakefield, Ixia and many others take advantage of our services in Office 365 to improve teamwork, consolidate suppliers and cut costs. And they can rely on our commitment to continually improve our services using the hyper-scale, intelligent and trusted Microsoft Cloud.

Article by Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the Skype team

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