When Microsoft relaunched Skype for Business earlier this year, it essentially amounted to giving its Lync app a sugary, Skype-flavored coating. At the time, many industry commentators felt that it was a risk for Microsoft to reposition its corporate collaboration software in this way.

Some wondered how Microsoft could possibly differentiate the value of Skype between businesses and consumers, or what kind of impression it would give a company’s clients if they’re using Skype to communicate– isn’t it just a free app that people use to make faces at their grandma?

What’s more, there were already plenty of cloud collaboration and communication apps out there making a name for themselves as reliable, robust, and feature-filled tools, tailored-made to the needs of a business. Apps like Aircall, GoToMeeting, and 8×8 were – and still are – awesome alternatives to Skype.

For all of these reasons, you would assume that it all backfired for Microsoft, and that Skype for Business is now a laughing stock, right? Actually, no. Skype for Business has been generally well received since it was released as part of Office’s April update, and its latest update – announced yesterday – promises even more cool tools for the forward thinking-business.

Skype vs Skype Business features list
Some wondered if Microsoft would be able to convince business users of the value of an enterprise version of Skype

Why it’s time to take Skype seriously

The latest new features of Skype for Business are available now for Office 365 enterprise customers, in the form of a technical preview. The standout feature for me is the new Skype Meeting Broadcast, which allows you to broadcast a Skype for Business meeting online to up-to a whopping 10,000 people.

Skype Meeting Broadcast will mean that larger businesses can host internal ‘town hall’-style meetings. Even smaller businesses could use the tool to ramp up their marketing efforts by performing public webinars to engage communities of thousands of customers and potential customers.

The Skype Meeting Broadcast feature includes some noteworthy integrations, including Bing Pulse for gauging attendee opinions through real time polling and sentiment tracking. Yammer integration will increase audience participation by allowing attendees to interact during the broadcast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLWpAEH2cyIThe other major new changes to Skype for Business are PTSN conferencing, which allows people to join meetings that they are invited to using a landline or mobile phone, and Cloud PBX with PTSN calling, which lets users make and receive traditional phone calls via the Skype for Business client.

The new Skype for Business features are available now as a technical preview for Office 365 enterprise customers (PSTN conferencing and Cloud PBX with PTSN calling are only available to U.S. customers for now). Click here to register for the preview.

Are you using the Skype for Business service? We’d love to know your thoughts on how it compares to other communication and collaboration apps for business. Do you think it sucks or are you a convert? Share your feelings in the comments below!