Skype Groups, a Skype-run service that allows business users of Skype the ability to centralize their purchases, marks both a recognition on the part of Skype that their user base contains a more significant percentage of enterprise users than the popular press, the tech press and even some VoIP bloggers tend to associate with the softphone giant.
A lot of these commentators and reporters are guilty of gross oversimplification when they tend to Balkanize Skype services as offerings for penny-pinching consumers, and QoS-enabled proprietary VoIP systems as, pretty much, the de facto choice for enterprise users.
Skype's own numbers, as well as my admittedly unscientific yet studied observations, ring true for me. I know plenty of business users who use their proprietary enterprise VoIP solution in their office, but augment that with in-office, home office and mobile use of Skype.
"From our research, we know that approximately 30% of our 61 million registered users rely on Skype for business purposes," Niklas Zennström, Skype CEO and co-founder, says in a statement announcing the official release of Skype Groups.
"In particular, businesses that outsource or have distributed teams will find Skype's services incredibly valuable," he adds. "No longer do managers have to juggle multiple communications plans among multiple providers; with Skype Groups, all employees are on one global platform at a fraction of the cost."
Skype Groups is not new: it rolled out in September as a beta service. But now with its official release, it is being actively marketed by Skype as a way for group admins to make large purchases to one Skype account. From that account they can distribute credits to Skype callers within their organization, as well as buy SkypeIn and Skype Voicemail premium services for group members.
Oh, and you can buy Skype Groups credits through PayPal- like Skype, an eBay subsidiary.