[Editor’s note: Today Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Skype and Lync announced a major change in its real time communications product branding. Phil Wolff recently made some comments in a Quora forum; I asked him to flesh out his points for a post. Here goes…]
This is a second life for the “Skype for Business” brand. Back in 2009, Skype bundled multi-user account management and some network management before the Microsoft Acquisition of Skype (October 2011). Corporations showed huge demand. Sadly, Skype was still mostly a Peer-to-Peer Technology so Skype couldn’t deliver management features fast or well. And Skype was just hiring its first real Business-to-Business sales and support teams, starting from scratch. The original Skype for Business was quietly retired as the Silver Lake investors prepared Skype for sale.
Supporting over 35% of international calling in 2013, Skype today has a strong central cloud core, permitting Skype to integrate its network with the rest of Microsoft’s apps and infrastructure. This week Skype announced Microsoft Lync will be rebranded “Skype for Business”. This is more than a name change, with product and business model changes to follow…
Short term value: Line extension for Skype for Business signups.
This rebranding will provide some real marketing uplift as a Skype line extension. Easier to get hundreds of millions of Office 365 subscribers to try “Skype for Business” than “Lync.” It will also make it easier for Microsoft and partners to sell Skype for Business and Skype for Business co-branded telephony products upmarket to larger enterprises (that often list Skype as the supported company IM/voice/video app) and to SMB’s (who know Skype as a personal product).
Medium term: Engrouping for Skype network utilization.
Skype is a social medium and will become more so as it picks up new group definitions and interactions. Active groups with a common purpose invite higher usage of hot media like IM and conferencing. Skype will make it easier to use our entangled social graphs.
Skype for Business‘s identity and directory services will include groups/teams/departments. This improves on a Skype user’s flat experience of people (like a long mobile phone contact list). Workplaces live on small groups and hierarchy. Groups make for better sharing, focused converations, and privacy models. Microsoft should be able to unify organization structures (sync’d from, ActiveDirectory, and other enterprise directories), hand-crafted group chats (like those found on Skype), and those you’d inherit from Office document sharing. I’d expect Skype for Business groups to blend co-authoring, docs for meeting presentations, and group talk/chat more seamlessly.
Consumers should benefit from better engrouping too, as Microsoft makes it ever easier to leverage groups you define anywhere across all Microsoft email, game, work, talk, and mobile experiences.
Longer-term: Skype for eCommerce.
A merchant places an ad on Bing (or Xbox, or one of Microsoft’s web sites) and a curious customer clicks/touches/swipes the ad. Launches live chat, perhaps with voice or video, connecting the buyer and seller. The merchant’s device(s) ring and pops-up caller info. Talk, sell, close.
Microsoft will integrate call routing, Microsoft’s CRM/call-center products and POS apps, Microsoft payments, and the Skype network with Microsoft’s advertising networks. The new click-to-talk-to-sale, Microsoft getting a taste of each transaction.
The Skype brand will continue to become Microsoft’s universal identity for live interaction, at work, at play, at school, at war – wherever Microsoft has customers.
As answered on Quora with slight editing.