Microsoft takes its first steps of its plan to migrate Skype for Business users to Teams

Microsoft is planning to migrate its Skype for Business Online users to Microsoft Teams, but maybe not in the way and timeframe some were thinking.

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It's happening: Skype for Business Online is on its way to being replaced by Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft accidentally leaked word of its plans to migrate its Skype for Business customers to its Teams chat-based collaboration service a couple weeks ago.

However, Microsoft is not going to force all Skype for Business users off the product by next Summer (which is what a message posted to some users' admin consoles as part of the aforementioned leak seemed to indicate).

Officials won't say when they're expecting all existing Skype for Business Online users to be moved to Teams, but they will provide a roadmap in early October 2017 with more firm delivery dates for making the capabilities in Skype for Business available to Teams users, said Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Office 365.

First on the new calling and meeting enhancements coming to Teams will be add-ins for inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers; hold; call transfer, and voicemail; audio conferencing (preview), which will allow participants to join a Teams meeting from any telephone; and interoperability with Skype for Business around universal presence, messaging, and calling.

Microsoft execs provided some demos of how Teams will provide conferencing and telephony capabilities during the first day of the company's Ignite conference for IT Pros on Sept. 25.

Over time, Teams will replace the Skype for Business client in Office 365 and will become the core unified communications client in the suite. But that doesn't mean all Skype for Business users will have to go that route immediately. In fact, Microsoft will be releasing a new on-premises Skype for Business server in the second half of 2018, Markezich confirmed, that will provide enhancements to PBX and advanced calling capabilities.

Microsoft also will be changing some of the product naming around Skype for Business and Teams as it moves forward. "Cloud PBX" features will be known as "Phone System." And PSTN conferencing will become "audio conferencing."

Skype for Business currently runs on the old Microsoft Lync infrastructure. Unlike Skype consumer and Teams, it wasn't moved to the new underlying back-end that's powering those two products.Microsoft is positioning Teams as providing communications experiences beyond what's currently possible using existing unified communications products.

"Intelligent communications" is Microsoft's new preferred terminology here, indicating that Teams will take advantage of the Microsoft Graph programming interface, plus cognitive services like translation. Teams will play a key role in making meetings more efficient, by helping people prepare beforehand, have conversations during and follow-through with follow-up, post-meeting, officials said.

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