Microsoft will retire the online communications service in 2021 in favor of its rapidly expanding Teams application
The technology market can officially say goodbye to Skype for Business Online. Microsoft has announced that the long-anticipated retirement date for the service is July 2021. Microsoft will instead direct business users to its Teams collaboration application and service.
The Lowdown: Microsoft will begin the slow transition away from Skype for Business Online in September, when it will stop giving Office 365 users a choice between the legacy service and Teams, the alternative to tools such as Slack. Existing Skype for Business Online users, though, will continue to have unrestricted access to the service through the retirement date.
The Details: The retirement of Skype for Business Online was initially announced more than two years ago as Microsoft started building up its Teams application. At the time, Microsoft didn’t say when it would shelve Skype for Business Online. Microsoft says Teams achieved feature parity with Skype for Business Online, which is why it’s not confident enough to schedule the service’s end of life. Microsoft is offering partners and customers technical guidance and resources for migrating from Skype for Business Online to Teams. The on-premises, server-based version of Skype for Business is not scheduled for retirement.
The Impact: Microsoft sees big opportunity in the collaboration application market segment, as indicated by its recent challenge to Slack. In July 2019, Microsoft announced that Teams has more than 13 million daily active users compared to 10 million for Slack. Discontinuing Skype for Business Online in favor of Teams will give Microsoft’s collaboration application and service a jolt in subscribers and active users. Microsoft has been pushing Teams activations in conjunction with Office 365 for nearly a year. For Microsoft reseller and integration partners, the retirement means more migration and support for customers that will need help with the changeover.
Background: Microsoft has a checkered history in the online collaboration and communications tools segment. In the late 2000s, Microsoft introduced Lync, an online messaging tool to replace Windows Messenger that was thought to eventually lead to the company’s entry into the telephony market. In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion and eventually supplanted Lync in favor of the Skype brand. At the same time, Microsoft continued to develop Yammer, a tool it acquired in 2012. While Microsoft isn’t retiring the Skype brand or its consumer versions, it’s pushing Teams in the business segment as another shift in how it’s approaching the lucrative collaboration market.
Counterpoint: The cutaway from Skype for Business Online will balloon the number of subscribers to Teams. The downside is that Microsoft may create a paper subscriber base, as compulsory participation doesn’t always equate to active users. While businesses will get Teams as part of their Office 365 bundle, they may still opt for alternative tools, such as Slack or Salesforce Chatter.