Skype for Business Launches

Skype has launched “Skype for Business”, a set of tools designed to help very small enterprises (those with ten or fewer staff) to use the Internet telephony product for business communications. The launch includes a dedicated website for business customers, some new certified hardware from Plantronics and some new features in the Skype “Business Control Panel” – until recently known as “Skype Groups”.

Analyst Ovum Comments: Skype’s announcement is not very important in itself. Dedicated website not withstanding, few customers really adopt Skype for the support. Some of the new Plantronics devices are rather cool – we are particularly keen on the Voyager 510 Bluetooth headset, which might be a useful tool for campus or office mobility if only the range extended beyond 10m – but again, few customers buy Skype because of any specific bits of hardware. And the newly renamed Skype Groups doesn’t provide anything like the range of features available on even a low-end PBX, key system or centrex service.

But this is missing the point. Sure, the initial offering is not that special, but it is a further sign that Skype is beginning to take an interest in the business market – towards which it had already taken a small step with its tie-up with remote access provider Fiberlink last year.

Skype is an attractive proposition to some kinds of valuable communications-intensive SMEs, including small venture-capital firms, technology start-ups, and professional services companies. Here telecoms forms an appreciable part of operating costs, but solutions from mainstream providers – especially PBX suppliers – are thin on the ground.

Moreover, Skype is working its way into the larger enterprises, in time-honoured fashioned, through the back door. Of course, IP telephony vendors are pushing their own, more carefully designed, better integrated, and more secure softphone products at enterprise customers. But Skype is well suited to travelling end-users and small teams who are keen to save on communications costs and to pick up a few functionality benefits; Skype’s conferencing and presence capabilities are really quite good and are easier to use than their equivalents on many PBX offerings. And interestingly, Skype has managed most of this without even really trying in the business market, and without spending a penny on advertising and marketing.

It may not look like much right now, but those first few mammals probably looked pretty funny too.