Microsoft makes its video calling, chat, and SMS text messaging services available to others

Microsoft's Azure Communication Services (ACS) will give customers and partners access to the same voice, video, chat and texting services that Microsoft uses to power Teams.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is introducing on Sept. 22 what it's calling an Azure-hosted "fully managed communications platform" in public preview form. These Azure Communication Services (ACS) are the same video calling, chat, and SMS text messaging services that Microsoft uses to power its own Teams service. 

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Microsoft's contention is its own customers and partners want an easy way to add these kinds of communications services to their own applications in an easy way. Company officials say these kinds of services are even more important because of the need for remote connectivity as a result of the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Using ACS, customers, and partners can add these communication services to their mobile apps, desktop apps, and web sites "with just a few lines of code," officials said as part of the announcement timed with the first day of the company's virtual Ignite 2020 IT Pro conference. (There are application programming interfaces and software development kits involved from a development standpoint.) The services are designed to work on any platform/any device. 

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft officials stressed that ACS is already a proven, globally available solution, as evidenced by its use in Teams.

Microsoft's own Dynamics ERP/CRM team is going to be using ACS to add communications services as an option for its Dynamics 365 Customer Service service. Microsoft is planning to make available a private preview of the ACS capabilities for that app starting sometime in October. Microsoft's pitch is the combination of ACS and Dynamics 365 Customer Service will enable users to bring capabilities like voice to Dynamics in five steps, compared to the many steps it takes to combine AWS Connect and Salesforce CRM. 

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The first services available to customers are voice and video calling and chat. SMS/texting integration is coming sometime in October. And "Phone Numbers" -- meaning communications scenarios with telephony capabilities for inbound/outbound calling -- is on the docket for October, as well. Officials said that the Phone Numbers service will "soon" integrate with existing on-premises equipment and carrier networks with SIP.

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