Microsoft makes inroads with Skype for Business

Microsoft says its internal figures indicate Skype for Business is growing faster than competitors.

Microsoft New Zealand says it is winning share in the cloud-based unified communications and collaboration market with Skype for Business.

The product appears to be especially attractive to users who already have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement in place, such as the University of Canterbury, which hopes to have its roll-out completed by the end of the year.

Malcolm Smeaton, group leader of IT at the university, Skype for Business would replace a thirty-year-old PABX system, from Meridian, which in turn was taken over by Nortel and then Avaya.

The system was "end of life" as far as Avaya was concerned, Smeaton said.

"We still have support from Spark Digital, but I suppose you can say that support is 'best effort' from them."

The old PABX and another that supports both voice and analogue phones are running in parallel until the roll-out is complete.

Obsolescence might be the "push" factor, but Skype for Business is particularly competitive under the terms of the university's campus agreement with Microsoft.

"There are some pricing advantages around that," Smeaton says.

"It integrates well in terms of our business relationship with Microsoft and we use a lot of other Microsoft tools."

The university runs Windows desktops, servers and the Office suite.

Locally, Microsoft is citing users such as NIWA, Les Mills, St. John, Beca, Canterbury Regional Council, Spark Digital and House of Travel as early adopters.

"The drive is - without doubt - the changing nature of work and the workplace," Microsoft's Maria Martinez Torres said.

"More businesses are wanting to give their employees the ability to work from anywhere and from any device, which in turn boosts productivity."

Before the current project, University of Canterbury was piloting Skype for Business's predecessors Office Communications Server (OCS) and then Linc 2013.

Smeaton says a proof of concept tested voice integration, availability and failover as well as instant messaging, video and audio conferencing and presence.

The rich collaborative services offered with Skype for Business were particularly attractive.

For Microsoft a place on key government procurement panels both directly and through partners such as Fujitsu is also helping drive adoption.

The two are now delivering a unified communications service to government based on Skype for business called GoCommunicate, sold as a per-user subscription. That in turn opens the real prospect of enabling citizens to interact with agencies via messaging, voice and video calls.

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