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Skype Announces Skype For Business 102

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the ready-for-the-bigtime dept.
conq writes "Skype has launched a new offensive to go after small business dollars. From the BusinessWeek article: 'The company is unveiling Skype for Business, aimed at small companies with fewer than 10 employees, on Mar. 9. Skype for Business will include a new Web site, Skype.biz, as well as a host of features and hardware. While Skype has introduced features appealing to business users one by one for the past six months, the new announcement marks the beginning of a concerted effort.'"
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Skype Announces Skype For Business

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  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:11AM (#14889776)
    If a company uses Apple or AMD systems, does that mean they have to fire 5 employees?
  • No More Phones? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkNemesis618 (908703) on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:12AM (#14889780) Homepage
    I guess actual phones are becoming obsolete. There's something to be said though about the reliability of phone lines. Should the network go down, Skype would become useless. Most business networks are pretty reliable but still aren't perfect.
    • Re:No More Phones? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AIX-Hood (682681)
      Well that's the real problem right there. How do you call your ISP for network outage support when your phone lines (skype controlled) are down also. Suddenly people start reaching for cell phones.
    • Re:No More Phones? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by XorNand (517466) * on Friday March 10, 2006 @11:53AM (#14890905)

      It's more than just phones that's going to prevent adoption. Sure, there's a good amount of tech savvy businesses out there who would be willing to use something like this. However, there are 100x times as many businesses who would be saving a ton on their phone services if they could spell VoIP. Small business phone service is ungodly expensive. In many cases, they're spending more on their telecom services per month than they do rent. I've been working with a subscriber with a small, six-person office, with five phone lines and who makes a decent chunk of long distance calls. Their phone bill is over $600/mo! And they dropped $4k the phone system hardware four years ago.

      The only way 95% of small businesses out there will ever adopt VoIP is if they are handheld through the process. Even if they know they'll save a ton of dough, working phones are just too critical to companies for them to throw caution to the wind. At the risk of giving away trade secrets ;-) that's the angle the VoIP company [brightideavoip.com] I work for is taking. We seek out partnerships with independant computer techies, VARs, and consultants who have small businesses as clients. These are the people that have the ear of business owners when it comes to making technology decisions. In return, we pay the partner a monthly stipend/retainer to support the subscriber. Businesses are *much* more likley to adopt something like this if they know they have a local expert that they contact in case of problems.

      While Skype is cool and can save them ton a cash what's even more important to businesses is a level of trust. I don't know a business owner in their right mind who would put their phone service in eBay's (the owner of Skype) hands. Their level of customer service is worse than Verizon.

    • Before you worry about that you should worry about actually paying for your skype call out service. They won't accept multiple credit cards, they won't let you pay with a card unless your IP is coming from a country where the card is issued, they won't let you buy more then 10 euros woth of calls at a time.

      It's clear they are trying to get you to use paypal (another ebay company) which rips you off every way they can and charges outragous rates.

      Skype for business? Not till you can actually buy the damned th
  • by Mr. Funky (957139)
    Especially the caller-log-thingie is very interesting.
    Here's a link to the biz-section : http://www.skype.com/business/ [skype.com]
  • skype 2 for MacOS... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oriol (463269)
    When are they ging to port skype 2 for Mac OS.
    I'd really like to have visio-conferences from my powerbook...
  • You go to the pub :-) Cus you won't be able ot diddly squat as you'll have skype for telephony, gmail for email, and the new google web office suite for your applications.
    • For some of us, losing your Internet connection is the worst part of that. Unless I'm updating my accounting or writing a proposal that doesn't need any additional research, there's almost nothing I can do. I take advantage of those times to play around in Ruby on Rails or read a book.

      Not all businesses are as dependent on Internet as mine (web development)... But many businesses still keep their cell phones around. And with some VoIP providers, you can have your calls forwarded to your cell phone.
    • Not if the taps aren't working at the bar, or if the beer truck failed to show. Every business has its lynchpin.
    • Many companies already have this issue, since their Internet connection is carried on the same line as their phones. My previous employer had fibre that carried all of it. When planning the system, we took into consideration that the connection could go down, but that's exactly the same as if our phone lines would have gone down prior to the switch. We had analog backups for the digital lines, so our customers could still get through; our fax lines were analog, so we could still send those; and we could
  • Skype for Linux (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    All I want is Skype for Linux for work properly with alsa. Is that too much to ask?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:34AM (#14889839)
    They will have to lower their prices for their services, otherwise they will start losing millions. So this a win-win situation for the consumer?
    • Except for the idiots who migrate completely to Skype, it is a win-win for consumers. But then, the business world isn't intended for idiots to survive.
    • The news of AT&T buying Bellsouth this week has prompted a lot of new speculation on how the phone companies plan on competing. Most of it has to do with media. With high speed DSL lines, phone companies could offer many of the same services cable providers offer today. Especially view on demand type services.

      So, it's possible that we will see great diversification on the telco side with other companies like Skype coming in to fill in the gaps.

      Most small businesses though would probably choose to
      • Not that Qwest is a good example of a telco trying to do this, but their limited deployment of what they call "VDSL" with television streamed from the head end to your house hasn't grown beyond the test area in Highlands Ranch, CO in a number of years.

        Something must have been wrong with the business model, or they just didn't do it right. The people that have it say it's a good bundled package, and their speed tests, etc... are good, but it's not expanding and hasn't for some time.
    • by oirtemed (849229) on Friday March 10, 2006 @09:39AM (#14890084)
      That is one theory. The other theory involves lobbying and new laws.
    • They will have to lower their prices for their services, otherwise they will start losing millions. So this a win-win situation for the consumer?

      They are going to charge for the bandwith to go over their lines, attempt to pay off legislators to block its adoption, make sure it becomes "unreliable" when reaching customers that use their lines, put millions into advertising against it, etc.

      With the (again, bleh) continued consolidation of the telcos, they are only getting stronger. You think that they are go
      • It's always interesting to see who slashdot readers back in a fight.

        In one corner - huge behemoth telcos

        In the other corner - a one-time startup, who have devised a system based on proprietary protocols which they refuse to publish, and is totally inoperable with recognised standards; now owned by a behemoth of net retailing

        No contest - proprietary systems & protocols are lower in the slashdot pecking order than the age-old net-head vs. bell-head rivalries and embedded hatred of telco operators (espe

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:35AM (#14889843) Journal
    I believe you're the first non-spammer to use a .biz domain!
    There should be an award for these things to improve .biz adoption. ;-)
  • Will governments (especially those who still have state-run telephone systems) try to figure out a way to tax this somehow? Seems a bit too good to be true.
    • Encrypted VOIP will be damn nigh impossible to tax or regulate. Encrypted traffic is just encrypted data; and there is no way to know what it is without decrypting it. Which, depending on the encryption algorithm, may well take a long, long time and is not even certain to produce anything useful {since any given cyphertext could be the result of any one of a large number of plaintext/key pairs}.

      Skype is reckoned to be encrypted, but this claim cannot be verified, as the source code is not available for perusal; it must be assumed that at least Skype themselves, and possibly The Authorities, have the power to listen to Skype calls.

      SIP or IAX over SSL/TLS would be much more secure, since these are open protocols and the only secret is the encryption key.
      • Oops. My bad. I meant, the only secret is the decryption key. Now I'm going to bash my head against the desk for an hour.
      • Actually not all encrypted traffic streams are equal. All encryption does is hide the contents of the message from observation. Even though every packet looks the same, the stream characteristics makes it vulnerable to statistical classification.

        By stream characteristics I mean timing of packets, bandwidth, endpoints, directional parity, and things like that.

        Examples:
        If a stream has real-time characteristics (ie. packets are roughly equally spaced in time, use more realtime protocol like UDP, etc), is bidi
    • US government has already tried it [techdirt.com], and the FCC is on our side. For now. But when South Dakota makes abortion virtually illegal [guardian.co.uk], do you really trust our government to do what's in our best interests? They'll do anythign they can to get their paws on it somehow. They (the illusive "man/men for proper conjugation") are trying to get us to pay for email [cbronline.com], for fuck's sake! It's up to us and how much BS we're willing to deal with. Sony's DRM didn't last long, now did it? The market will even itself out,
  • From the news:
    "Skype has launched a new offensive to go after small business dollars. From the BusinessWeek article: 'The company is unveiling Skype for Business, aimed at small companies with fewer than 10 employees...

    So..medium to big businesses can't have this baby? That's discrimination! :D
  • Over two weeks to straighten out a problem. If that happened at work, we would have dumped them...
  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Skype is really not the way to go with VOIP. It's entirely proprietary and doesn't allow you to communicate with other VOIP networks unlike SIP based providers. Imagine if your mobile could only call other phones on the same network...?
  • From the article: "A lot of businesses are caught in between paying a lot of money to telcos or getting a substandard service (from consumer VoIP offerings). So Skype is entering at the right time."

    You mean, just the right time to offer another VoIP offering with substandard service?

    I guess it depends on your definition of "standard". Is it traditional telco-based phone service? Is it the voice quality of that service, or the range/flexibility of business features? I think there is a more platonic "id

    • They have offered a "business package" that is "easy to use". YOu should know by now that the general public doesn't always care about quality - for Pete's sake, 95% of the world uses Windows! Skype wins!

      None of these services are what everybody wants. We're on the bleeding edge of this new service as far as consumers are concerned and it will take a few years to iron out.
  • So can I get a physical phone now? Everytime my phone rings I have to:

    - click 'Answer'
    - pause iTunes
    - put headset microphone near mouth
    - say "hello"
    - put on headset
    - turn off speakers

    Skype is my only phone, I work from the house. It's rock solid reliable but I'd love one of the phones that Vonage users get:

    http://www.uniden.com/products/index.cfm?cat=consu mer%20voip [uniden.com]

    An ACTUAL phone, not connected to my computer, but ethernet jack in the back. I give it my Skype account and it connects.
  • by silverbax (452214) on Friday March 10, 2006 @09:33AM (#14890057)
    We signed up with Skype to test it out - it took WEEKS to get set up, although our payment cleared immediately. We never recieved real response in the way of customer service, so we moved to NetZero's VOIP - it was set up within minutes, has always worked and calls anywhere.

    Skype = Hype.
    • I got myself up and running on Skype in a matter of minutes.
      • Are you talking about using just Skype or the additional services? Yes setting Skype up to call other Skype users is a no brainer. But it took over two weeks and many emails to get Voicemail working! It took over a week JUST TO GET A RESPONSE, and that was a worthless canned response. Once setup it's works great, but they need better support to sell this to businesses.
    • by moniker_21 (414164) on Friday March 10, 2006 @10:20AM (#14890306)
      I had that exact same problem. Well, almost exactly the same. It took about 24 hours and a strongly worded email from me to get my account acvitated, even though my payment had cleared already. They told me they are having intermitent problems with their payment system wherein some accounts take longer to be activated then others. It was a frusterating start, but once I did get setup I've found Skype to be pretty awesome.
    • That must be because you have AMD based PC's and are a company with more than 5 employees...
    • Could it have been your internet provider that was filtering internet traffic in order to control how much Skype traffic was hogging their pipes? "Skype for Business" is happening so that ISPs can easily determine what is "common" Skype and what is "profitable" Skype. Behind the scenes Skype will be making deals with the ISPs to ensure quality of service for "Skype Business" while the consumer offering remains unreliable.
      • All of our issues were related to customer service and billing. When we could not get real response from customer service, we realized we might not be able to take the service seriously.
  • They should add their protocol to asterisks and sell the system to smb. Most companies would jump at the chance to lower their telephony charges.
    • Asterisk is militantly Open Source. Skype is closed source. The only way Asterisk will ever support Skype is indirectly; if someone creates a compatible alternative to Skype, and releases it under the GPL.

      It's going to take a lot of French Café work, or possibly even an inside job, to hack Skype's protocols open; and it's more likely that Skype will go out of business before that happens.
      • Skype's strength is its codec and protocols. All Skype has to do is create closed source modules to add on. Asterisk will not care for that, but they can not stop Skype from doing that . At least not under GPL 2. Skype could then sell the resultant system to SMBs and make use of SIP and IAX based phones/ATAs.

        Now as to reverse engineering, well, yes, that would take a lot of work. But it always does. And yet, it happens all the time. Think in terms of all the cracks in Windows as well as the DVD CSS.
        • Asterisk can do plenty to keep Skype from creating closed-source modules. They can change the API in various subtle ways. It won't matter much to Asterisk users -- you pretty much have to compile it from source everytime anyway. But it will slow Skype down considerably if users have to patch their Asterisk to match the API version against which the Skype plugin was compiled.
  • by SEWilco (27983) on Friday March 10, 2006 @09:47AM (#14890127) Journal
    So why use Skype rather than Vonage? Vonage has fax service, I see. Any other competitors?
    • by Lokni (531043)
      The question is... does Vonage's fax service work? In my experience... no it does not. I tried hard with several fax machines to get a fax to go over Vonage. Couldn't do it.
    • Fax??? I vaguely remember that word being used a couple of times in the last century, but didn't cope too well with hieroglyphics.

      Why not use a phone camera and file transfer and keep the trees where they belong?

      In fact all average office paperwork can be photographed and archived using a digital camera, phone or scanner, then the should-be-obsoleted paper can go for recycling/energy recovery.

      Should be no need for paper/fax with proper systems in place.
      • Yeah, good plan. The next time I have a customer who wants to fax me a purchase order or have me fax him an invoice, I'll just tell him to fuck off and keep his money until he gets a "proper system" in place so that I won't have to deal with faxes anymore. Yeah, I bet I'll be real successful with that approach. I'm sure customers will be just falling all over themselves to reorganize their bureaucracies to suit my need to not have faxes going in and out of my office...

        Get real. I mean, what an idiotic

        • Hey, I didn't insult anyone... I got real, and don't have to tell anyone to fuck off! We have different but equally valid realities. Faxes are not a fact of *my* life as my clients are tech savvy, I get POs as PDFs, I send invoices as PDFs, and the only papers I ever see are gas/elec bills and bank statements, though the bank is online and I get SMS notifications of transfers. I don't expect to ever lose a client through not having a fax. It is taking a while, but I really do believe that faxes will eventua
      • Actually I wouldn't be using paper-based faxing. Now do you have anything to contribute about fax-compatible alternatives to POTS?
    • both have advantages, my understanding is that vonage calls always go through vonage. For instance I set up vonage line for the branch office I work at (actually recently switched to broadvoice) if the home office setup a vonage phone line, every time we call the main office, the call would start with my traffic going to vonage, and vonage sending traffic to the home office. voip provides for handing off the call, but because both of our contacts to vonage have to be through our firewalls, it will never f
      • http://www.skype.com/products/explained.html [skype.com]
        "A true P2P system, in our opinion, is one where all nodes in a network join together dynamically to participate in traffic routing-, processing- and bandwidth intensive tasks that would otherwise be handled by central servers."

        Of course your traffic isn't passing through Skype's servers. It doesn't need to. It's passing through everyone elses machine thats using Skype.

        With vonage your traffic goes through only one other party while with Skype it passes through ev
  • Security? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does this mean they'll be encrypting the calls finally? Or is a simple man-in-the-middle attack still enough to get your conversations?
  • With the Toronto downtown core going WIFI we might consider purchasing WIFI VOIP phones for employees. I do not know how the wireless companies plan to compete in this new market.
  • by tonk (101504) on Friday March 10, 2006 @10:27AM (#14890348) Homepage
    ... is what some smart people demonstrated at BlackHat Europe: Silver Needle in the Skype [secdev.org]
  • Will it support "Lawful Intercept" (wire taps) and 911 + location reporting ?
  • Stiff competition (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@@@tpno-co...org> on Friday March 10, 2006 @11:04AM (#14890612) Homepage
    They have some stiff competition from Asterisk, which is just starting to gain some serious momentum.

    Would you rather have;

    1) A completely open system, based on commodity hardware

    or

    2) Locked in system?

    Most people I talk with love asterisk BECAUSE it's based on standards. These are business owners I'm talking about. They dislike avaya's and co attempts to lock them in, and appreciate asterisk's openness.

    Well, that, and asterisk can do *ANYTHING*.

    Add in the fact they setup arbitrary limitations, and I don't think they are taking the business sector seriously.
    • the answer is (3) a system that is easy to use. That's why Skype is a success and all other SIP-based VoIP solutions never had a significant impact.

      Oh, and yes, I'm an happy asterisk user and I avoid skype.

      BTW, talking about avaya, they also took lessons from Skype, and now have p2p ip phones ... and all major players are moving to SIP (cf voicecon).
  • ASTERISK support or at least the ability to support other Voip PBX systems like the Cisco and others out there popular with business.

    Most businesses dont want seperate phones but a phone system unless you are a one man shop trying to look like a bigger business.

  • Skype is one company i love. I use it everyday with my girl in boston. audio-video. Then when we play silk road (silkroadonline.com) We use it in conference for peoples in our guild. 4-5 people max usually at one time. -video games -women -beer? if somehow it let me drink beer.. or order some i would add that. Linksys now has the wireless phone for skype, and there is always that USB hookup for normal cordless phones to plug in. If somebody i know does not have skype, i tell them to get it. Once t
  • The "Business" version of a product always has better features than the cripple-ware "Consumer" version. I wonder which one people will want? Skype has peaked and is on the downhill side anyway...
  • While I am a total asterisk fanboy, I've always been impressed with skype's call quality and ease of use. Seeing them turn to the business side in this respect (namely salesforce) is a huge move for them. There are company's searching for this sort of functionality like wild packs of hungry wolves.

    Asterisk really needs this sort of integration within salesforce. All it would take is a small desktop client that will talk with the asterisk box to make this work. If the asterisk community were to come up w
  • Maybe its me, but what SMALL businessman is going to gamble mediocre voice quality and phone outages based on local internet conditions just to save money "they wanted to spend anyway"? Yes, telco contracts are significantly more expensive than residential, but its for a reason. Its not because small businesses want to be fleeced, its to get 99.999% uptime. Its for someone to yell at when the phone service goes down, and then to actually have the service restored in the shortest time possible. No small
  • Skype does have an interesting partner in Transclick (home.transclick.com). I'm not sure if this is vaporware but Transclick does appear to have a good translation application for international business. It should allow users speaking different languages to communicate with each other. Sort of an online babblefish. Anyone have experience with the two?
  • Google should buy skype and extend it quickly out to all users, and refine skype out so thats its more effective. Google and Skype could be a match made in heaven if it were done correctly, and might serve to counter the newly resurgent Ma Bell thing that appears to be ressurecting itself. Competetion is good, and Skype + Google could be a great low cost tool in Googles portfolio. Vonage is okay but the rates are wacked, because you still have to have a line and that requires a telephone provider.
    Just my
  • Integration BABY!! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you are like most small businesses, you probably use MS products, you probably have an Win2000 or Win2003 server, and if you want to stick with open standards (SIP)...

    Maybe you should look at Vonexus from Interactive Intelligence (ININ).

    This is the king of the the SIP IP telephony small business world. Taking their queues from their big brother CIC, king of the SIP IP Call Center industry.

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