How are Skype and Skype for Business Coming Together?

The promise of bringing Skype together with Skype for Business (S4B), has a lot of voice and video communications enterprise staff pretty excited. They have been holding onto the promise for more than a year that Microsoft will make life seamless for them by bringing together the enterprise and consumer worlds of voice and video (V&V).

About a year ago, Gurdeep Pall, the Microsoft Corporate VP for Skype, said:

“We’re also making it easier to connect to people everywhere. Lync already offers instant messaging and audio calling with Skype users. Skype for Business adds video calling and the Skype user directory making it possible to call any Skype user on any device.”

But what has, or does, that promise hold for the enterprise?

Skype_for_Business_Secondary_Blue_RGBSure it will be nice for the directories to come together so anyone can find anyone else, and maybe there is now full connectivity at all levels (Presence to Video), but I don’t find much evidence of a seamless and full connection. (If you can point to real progress in this area, please leave comments below.)

I think it is still going to take some time.  And … in today’s world, time is more of the essence than ever before.

As I was searching online for more evidence of Skype and S4B coming together I found some interesting articles on what Microsoft was focusing on in the V&V market, and it didn’t really have much to do with Skype and S4B coming together.

Skype (Microsoft) seems to be focused in a new direction. Enabling V&V from your browser – if you are using Internet Explorer. From about a year ago:

“Together with the industry-leading expertise of Skype and Internet Explorer, we’re excited to announce development has begun on the ORTC API for WebRTC, a key technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the web a reality.

We aim to make browser-based calls more convenient by removing the need to download a plugin. It’s all about convenience – imagine you’ll be able to simply open IE and make a Skype call to friends, family, or get real-time support for that new device right from your browser.”[Emphasis added].

And stated in an article from three weeks ago on the Skype website called, “Skype for Web and Skype for Outlook.com – Update”:

“We’re thrilled about the exciting scenarios that ORTC APIs enable and we are proud to be one of the first to use these ORTC APIs in the Edge Browser.  The ORTC APIs will enable us to develop advanced real-time communications scenarios – like group video calls with participants all on different browsers and operating systems – using features like Simulcast and Scalable Video Coding (SVC), all while preserving the ability to easily interop with existing telephony networks.”

And finally very recently on the Skype for Business website, Microsoft said,

“The ORTC API preview for Microsoft Edge is the latest result of a close, ongoing collaboration between the Windows and Skype teams. Together we’re able to apply decades of experience building great web platforms to deliver some of the largest and most reliable real-time communications services for businesses and consumers. What does this mean for you? For developers, we’re providing new ways to build innovative real-time communications into your web-based experiences. For people using Skype and Skype for Business at work or at home, calls and meetings on the web will soon get even easier and more seamless.”

It looks like Microsoft is shifting its focus to a Browser based approach for their real-time communications connections.  Maybe this is in addition to the direction to bring Skype and S4B together?

emailThinkstockPhotos-142090570

What does all this mean?

  1. A new way to interoperate between Skype and S4B?
  2. Microsoft is changing paths or going down duel paths?
  3. Browser based apps win?
  4. All of the above?

The Market Waits for No-one

Browser based communications tools are not a new idea; WebRTC has been the poster child for this technology for some time and is gaining significant momentum. The path to using this technology is being forged by many tech companies and their customers.

There are over 210 companies now offering WebRTC based software products (http://www.webrtcworld.com/webrtc-list.aspx)  and the list is rapidly growing. WebRTC is a quiet revolution that is being incorporated in multiple channels of communications without fanfare:

  • Google uses WebRTC in Hangouts
  • Citrix uses it in their GoToMeeting product
  • Uberconference uses it in their global voice conferencing service
  • Norwegian Telco giant Telenor launched a popular video chat service (appear.in) on a WebRTC platform which has thousands of users worldwide
  • One of the world’s largest telecom operators, AT&T, has embraced WebRTC
  • In April, 2015, Facebook announced that it was ditching the agreement with Microsoft to use Skype for voice and video calling and going to WebRTC

The Business to Consumer (B2C) Market for Voice and Video Communications

Enterprise user departments are not waiting for IT solutions to enable V&V for their B2C customers. The leading enterprises have already brought their solutions to market. Here is an example from Barclays Bank:

In a previous blog, “Transforming the Healthcare Collaborative Ecosystem”, I pointed out how integrating V&V into healthcare processes is revolutionizing how things are done. You don’t need to wait for Skype and S4B to come together – the evidence is growing. In fact, by doing so you will be falling further behind the competition.

In the B2C market, using the native browser will be the way of the future for real-time voice and video and how Skype and S4B come together will only matter for enterprise internal communications. Microsoft knows that. That is why they are excited about their new direction.  It is worth noting that some independent Microsoft S4B developers already have an API in place to connect with S4B on the enterprise side and have enabled browser  based V&V chat for B2C applications.  Anywhere365 is a contact centre app for S4B that enables S4B contact centre agents to chat, have voice and video calls, as well as application share with the clients that are using their browser.  No need for the customer to have any particular client installed on their device.

Speed to market is what matters now – especially in B2C. Integrating voice and video into your consumer facing web applications has been done in as little as 2 months.

If you are still not convinced and want to wait for the integration of Skype and S4B for B2C V&V, ask yourself a couple of simple questions:

  1. Do you really want to have to ensure every consumer device has Skype on it to be able to connect to it? (It is simple to connect on a browser when your customer is on your website)
  2. What is your best case timeline for integrating a B2C voice and video communications based on the current Skype client?

If you check out some of the Microsoft articles I referenced above, you will note the push that Microsoft has for Microsoft Edge – their next generation browser – which I am sure, will be powerful. I think that long term, the proprietary Skype client will be moth balled in place of a more open browser experience.  However it actually turns out, I commend Microsoft for proactively positioning themselves with the browser voice and video capability.

The Skype brand will stick around, but today’s Skype client technology might not last.

What do you think?

Video Communications Growth Accelerating Quickly

Is Your Organization Prepared?

Video Conferencing, Live Event Streaming, Video On Demand, Digital Signage, Security Camera systems and Video Chat are all different forms of video communications. By video communications, I mean a communication that is watched and heard. According to Cisco’s data, video is the biggest and fastest growing segment of all Internet traffic.

cisco IP Traffic chart

Figure 1: Global IP Traffic: 2014 – 2019 (Cisco)

Video traffic used by Consumers in 2015 is already more than 60% of all Internet traffic and by 2019 Cisco predicts it will grow by 2.5 times, accounting for almost 70% of all Internet traffic.  See Figure 1.

Business video is the fastest growing segment in the enterprise use of the Internet. In 2015 it accounts for just under 8% of the global IP traffic, the 4th largest category, but by 2019, it will become the 2nd largest global IP traffic category accounting for 11% of global IP traffic.

Growing by more than 3 times between 2015 and 2019, Business video will be the fastest growing segment of global IP traffic. Business global IP video traffic will grow from 5,711 Petabytes in 2015 to 18,618 Petabytes in 2019.

Why is business video usage growing so much?

Video is, by-far, the most compelling communications method to engage customers and employees. It is also the most effective method for disseminating company-wide information.

Business video communications, in all its forms, should be something that is important to every CEO and CIO.   Unlike the consumer video traffic segment, business video is not dominated by the streaming of entertainment such as movies and TV shows. The business video segment of global IP traffic is made up of the following primary categories of video usage (in no particular order):

  • Video Conferencing
  • Live Event Streaming
  • Video on Demand (VoD)
  • Digital Signage
  • Security Camera (streaming and VoD)
  • Video chat

Each of these segments can be considered as a market on its own, but more and more there will be relationships between these segments, and businesses that are able to easily connect them together will realize advantages over their peers.

Business colleagues in video conference


Enterprise Class Capabilities

When an enterprise deploys a new technical capability, they need to make sure that the solutions are up to snuff in order to fit into the enterprise IT world. Security is always the primary concern but it is certainly not the only criterion that a new IT solution will have to pass the test on. Here are some items to consider:

  1. Security
  2. Deployment requirements
  3. Enterprise directory integration
  4. Recording capabilities
  5. Archiving and retrieval
  6. Tools to manage the deployment of new infrastructure
  7. Serviceability of the new technology
  8. And more ….

Each one of the categories above has a consumer solution(s) which could be used in an enterprise.  These consumer solutions are not enterprise hardened technology solutions because they don’t address the list of items above. Here are some examples:

Technology Consumer Solution Enterprise Hardened Solution
Video Conferencing Skype; Facetime Cisco (H.323); Skype for Business; Vidyo
Video on Demand (VoD) YouTube Kaltura; VBrick; Qumu
File Sharing Dropbox Box

Enterprise Readiness

The data tells us that business video will be bigger than the business use of the Internet for ‘Web & Other Data’ in 2019.  That means that enterprises who have not already done so, need to be ready to provide and manage IT solutions in each of the business video categories.  They will need to ask some questions on behalf of their organization:

  1. Do we have a solution or platform for each of the business video categories?
  2. Are each of these islands of technology or will they integrate with each other?
  3. Do we need an in house solution or a fully managed cloud solution?
  4. Does the solution meet our enterprise technology requirements?
  5. Who will use the solutions and how will we deploy the technology and train the users?

These are just some of the questions, but some important ones.

Enterprises are already seeing the value of video.  According to Wainhouse, 4 out of 5 enterprises say that video use improves productivity and efficiencies in their organizations.  Further, 73% want their organizations to expand the usage of video.  But as video technology becomes more pervasive, its uses will expand into applications that most people have never heard of.  For example, video magnification will provide new capabilities to organizations.

By magnifying recorded or live video:

  1. A Doctor can take the pulse of a patient they are talking to over video while their normal conversation is going on by automatically magnifying the skin of the patient until the pulse can be seen and measured.
  2. Security personnel can reproduce entire conversations, even if the people being viewed have their backs turned away from the camera. The conversation the people are having is causing objects all around them to vibrate and that vibration when focused on and magnified can re-create the conversation.

These are just a couple of examples of how one small niche video capability will provide new uses few people ever imagined.

With the explosion of video communications, there will also be a corresponding increase in the requirement to record, archive and retrieve video communications.  Some of these capabilities are already in place and sometimes the services of product specialists are needed.

Over the next few blogs I am going to delve deeper into some of the video communications categories other than video conferencing.

We have written many blogs on video conferencing and I personally use the technology so much that when I have a call that doesn’t have video, its uncomfortable because something is missing.  I feel like I am driving a car without my seatbelt on. Here is a partial list of some of our prior blogs related to video conferencing.

  1. The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room
  2. Screen Real Estate – a Critical Factor in Making Video Calls As Good As “Being There”
  3. Pros and Cons of Using Skype for Business Video Conferencing Calls
  4. Will Desktop and Mobile Video Kill the Market for Room Based Video Conferencing and Telepresence Deployments?
  5. 5 Myths of Telepresence and what they mean to your business
  6. What Conferencing Technologies Should be Available in Our Meeting Rooms?
  7. What is a Corporate Communications Framework?
  8. Why I Choose Videoconferencing to Collaborate
  9. Is your Communications Technology Framework a Patchwork or Tapestry? Why it Matters
  10. Is being in the same physical space critical to improving collaboration?
  11. The Difference Between a Virtual Audio Call and a Virtual Video Call?
  12. Does Rich Communication accelerate the velocity of collaboration?
  13. Honey – They Seriously Shrunk the Cost of Telepresence!
  14. What is your Organization’s Attitude to Video?
  15. Has video conferencing crossed “The Chasm” to the mainstream market?
  16. The Rise of the Virtual Meeting Room
  17. Video in the Cloud
  18. Transforming the Healthcare Collaborative Ecosystem

Stay tuned.

I welcome any comments – please leave them.  Also questions or requests which I will respond to as best I can.

Why I Choose Videoconferencing to Collaborate

In my experience selling videoconferencing systems, most vendors focus on the ROI of replacing expensive travel. While it’s easy to justify the expense of a videoconferencing system by eliminating a few executive trips, I believe that the real value of desktop videoconferencing is in replacing phone calls and some intra-city travel. There are many unrealized benefits to videoconferencing that give big ROI.