Because it is a pre-release program, Skype said it would not be able to admit all applications, though the company said its objective is to allow as several populace as likely to participate before making the next general release. “Instead, the trials must be provisioned for the customer tenant by an Office 365 administrator”, Microsoft officials said.
It’s important to note that to date, these features are only available for the Office 365 enterprise as well as the Skype for Business Plan 2. It’s similar to a feature offered by Citrix’s GoToMeeting product, which also allows users to call in to a digital meeting from a standard phone.
They will allow companies to replace their phone networks and video conferencing services through either an Office 365 enterprise plan or Skype for Business Plan 2 and broadcast meetings to thousands of people at a go.
The new capabilities come as Microsoft has been undertaking a years long process to merge Skype, which was initially focused on consumers, and Lync, Microsoft’s home grown messaging and voice offering. Microsoft built out this capability using the voice technology used in Skype for Business Server and its Lync predecessor.
Within the Broadcast feature, a meeting host presents through the Skype for Business client as attendees tune in via browser on a device of their choice. Skype Meeting Broadcast can support online meetings of “up to 10,000 people”. Cloud PBX is now limited as a preview only for Office 365 users in the USA, but Microsoft promises to extend the availability to customers worldwide later this year. The system also integrates Yammer and Bing Pulse so that speakers can collect and respond to live back-channel feedback in real time.
Lastly, the new Cloud PBX feature allows users to make and take “standard” phone calls within Skype for Business, complete with the ability to hold, resume, forward and transfer their calls. This service will also be available only in the United States, but the company is planning to ship Cloud PBX to users globally later this year, along with a configuration option for customers to use existing phone lines for inbound and outbound calling. To help counter these concerns Microsoft also worked with 10 telecoms as strategic partners to offer Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. This preview is USA only at this time. This beta feature is available to Office 365 users worldwide.
ExpressRoute lets enterprise customers create private connections between their premises and Microsoft data centers.
All in all, these previews deliver a lot of new functionality.