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Are Skype’s days as a business tool numbered?

Skype has come a long way since its first mainstream success in 2005, but plenty of copycats and rival innovators have put the pressure on over the years.

Rival platforms like Zoom, Cisco Webex and Google Hangouts have stolen the spotlight After its sale to Microsoft, a new service called Skype for Business was launched While Skype's days as a business tool seem to be nearing their end, it will find life in a different platform

Finding solid popularity in 2005 after its 2003 beta release, voice and video communications firm Skype helped bring Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to the mainstream, and was the go-to internet communication app for business and casual users alike. Everything from business conferences, boardroom meetings, and even Late Night Talk Shows have been known to use the software heavily. 

In recent years, however, the company has seen many copycat rivals – and some innovators – and they’re a dime a dozen. These include Viber, WhatsApp Call, Facebook’s Messenger, Facetime, and much more. On the corporate side of things, you have Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex, Slack, Zoom and RingCentral. 

Skype later on ventured deeper into the business web conferencing by launching Skype for Business, after it was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. Microsoft rebranded its Microsoft Lync service as Skype for Business in 2015. Changes included a new client interface, a new server release and updates to the UC service (Unified communications) in Office 365.

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Today, and especially during my day-to-day as a journalist, I’m often involved in plenty of VoIP calls, and sometimes in web conferences. More often, I’ve been noticing business professionals distance themselves from Skype in favor of other services. Cisco Webex is a popular option, and Zoom has gained traction as well, at least from my experience. 

In the UAE, at least, that is understandeable, as VoIP services like Skype and WhatsApp Call are banned by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the country for fear of a lack of revenue, as plenty of media outlets have reported on the matter. 

But Skype as a business tool is not only fading from the zeitgeist among users alone: Microsoft has a hand in this as well. Late last year, Microsoft announced that it will be “retiring” Skype for Business Online on July 31, 2021. Microsoft will be migrating existing users of Skype for Business to another of its services: Microsoft Teams. 

According to ZDNet, Microsoft will enable Skype consumer users to communicate with Teams users using chat and calling starting in Q1 2020. 

So while it seems the days of Skype as a business tool are nearing their end, the platform will find life in another form. This is a lucky coincidence for Microsoft’s Teams platform, as many companies worldwide are asking their employees to work from home given the Coronavirus pandemic that has raged across the world. 

Microsoft’s Teams itself saw a 500% increase in meetings, calls, and conference usage in China since the end of January, according to a spokesperson, and as reported by Vox. Zoom has already added more new active users so far this year than it did throughout all of 2019, according to a Bernstein analyst, as per Market Watch.

So as one video conferencing software prepares to take its leave, a renewed lease on life is offered to market newcomers and veterans. Regardless of it all, Skype’s impact in business over the years will not be forgotten.

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