Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. The company has made a number of announcements around its Skype for Business Online product geared toward conference calls and online meetings while killing off Skype for TV.
Skype is one of many apps pre-loaded on smart TVs along other apps like Hulu and Netflix. But Microsoft is throwing in the towel for its smart TV app. "Starting in June 2016, the Skype for TV application will no longer be supported; there will be no updates to the application. This will also affect new account creation and password resets. This will only be available through Skype.com," the company said on the Skype blog.
The app will continue to function after June, but Microsoft warns that it will vary depending on the TV model and some manufacturers may remove the Skype for TV application from some or all of their models. Microsoft said it ended support because the app just wasn't being used.
Now on to the business news. Some of the Skype for Business Online functions are already available for U.S. Office 365 customers and Microsoft is prepared to roll these features out worldwide. It's adding 17 countries to the list supporting the PTSN Conference service, bringing the total of countries served to 32. This service allows business customers to simplify to use local numbers for conference call-ins, making it easier to set up international meetings while keeping the cost of calls down.
The next feature is the Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business Server, which will be generally available in April. Skype for Business Server already supports carrier calling services, and the new Cloud Connector Edition will allow customers to connect existing phone lines and phone numbers to Office 365 conference calls. This will give Office 365 users the same flexibility in carrier calling choice as on premise Skype for Business customers.
Starting in May, Microsoft will offer a preview of Skype for Business PSTN Calling services in the UK, giving UK Office 365 business customers their entire communications service such as assigned numbers, calls and voicemail managed by Microsoft and integrated through Office 365.
Finally, there is an initiative called Project Rigel, which will offer common PC conferencing features like screen sharing, IM and whiteboard but on a traditional conference room projector or display. According to Microsoft, just 3% of meeting rooms have a traditional teleconferencing system, which brings in the video, audio, and compute power, such as whiteboarding. The other 97% require remote participants to call in on a speakerphone, and then they can't see the screen.
Project Rigel will bring a Skype Meeting experience to nearly any meeting room with a display or projector by using a Surface Hub. Hardware partners including Polycom and Logitech have promised to certify elements of their portfolios for use with Project Rigel systems. Microsoft expects the first systems based on Project Rigel to be available in the second half of 2016.