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Microsoft Will Retire Skype For Business Online In Two Years, Replace With Teams

Two years after its launch, Teams has become the focal point for Microsoft’s workplace collaboration vision.

Microsoft has revealed a timetable for transitioning customers off Skype for Business Online, with workplace collaboration solution Teams taking its place.

The company said it will retire Skype for Business Online as of July 31, 2021.

[Related: Microsoft Inspire 2019: The 6 Biggest Statements From Gavriella Schuster And Judson Althoff]

Microsoft has been foreshadowing the move for some time now through rapid development and expansion of the Teams application, as well as through placing a heavy emphasis on Teams at Microsoft events.

Earlier this month, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said that Teams has 13 million daily active users. It was the first disclosure of daily usage metrics for the Teams app, which includes group chats, instant messaging and video/audio meeting, along with integration of Microsoft and third-party applications.

Teams launched two years ago and competes first and foremost with Slack, which reported having 10 million daily active users as of late January.

However, Skype for Business Online, which launched in 2014, has also been a competitor to the use of Teams within businesses. Users will no longer be able to access Skype for Business Online after it is retired two years from now, said James Skay, senior product marketing manager in the Intelligent Communications Product Marketing Group at Microsoft.

"Over the last two years, we’ve worked closely with customers to refine Teams, and we now feel we’re at the point that we can confidently recommend it as an upgrade to all Skype for Business Online customers," Skay wrote in a post. "Using Teams, companies across the world are becoming more agile, shortening cycle times, improving the efficiency of key workflows, and cutting out unnecessary overhead. Teams isn’t just an upgrade for Skype for Business Online, it’s a powerful tool that opens the door to an entirely new way of doing business."

The move is a "big deal" both for customers and partners of Microsoft, said Ric Opal, principal at Oak Brook, Ill.-based SWC Technology Partners, a BDO USA LLP company.

Teams is "a platform built for the cloud, versus the Skype platform that was not necessarily initially architected for cloud," Opal said. "You've got a mobile experience that's elegant and that was made for mobile, if you will."

Teams also harmonizes with changing workforce demographics, which are creating more demand in the workplace for the sort of interface offered by the collaboration app, he said.

"It's not like you're monitoring an inbox. It's more like you're interacting in social media, which I think a lot of people find to be more appealing," Opal said.

Meanwhile, on the partner side, "the opportunity is massive" with Teams to provide everything from security and compliance, to application development, to user enablement and adoption, he said.

"The need for the user to understand and buy in is critical. Because unless you've got 100 percent buy-in, you don't have 100 percent return," Opal said.

CRN has reached out to Microsoft for comment on the implications of the announcement for partners.

Jim Banach, practice group lead for workplace at Washington, D.C.-based New Signature, No. 407 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, said the transition from Skype for Business to Teams has been widely expected.

"Directionally, Microsoft has been sharing this path with customers and partners for a few years now, and has put this into practice for smaller customers for a few months now," Banach said in an email to CRN. "It’s good to see that they are setting a direction for all customers now."

The Teams app has received "rapid feature advancements in the last year," he noted.

"This announcement shows that Microsoft has the confidence that Teams is ready for customers that have made the decision to bring their communications and collaboration solutions to the Microsoft cloud," Banach said.

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