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Microsoft Expands Skype's Chat and Video Reach

In an effort to broaden Skype's user base, Microsoft on Thursday made it possible for Skype users to open their conversations to people on other services such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Microsoft described the chat capability as a small update that will change the way people use Skype.

"Anyone can join the chat as a guest from their computer using Skype for Web and enjoy one to one or group instant messaging, voice and video calls," according to the announcement by the Skype team. "No Skype account or app download [is] required. Now you can use Skype to chat with anyone and not just the people in your Skype contact list."

The move comes just a week after Microsoft released new previews of Skype for Business for Office 365 users.

Overall, the increased emphasis on Skype and Skype for Business shows that Microsoft is looking to get more customers using these services, although the focus is clearly on business customers, especially when it comes to video.

In a research note published on Seeking Alpha, Dallas Salazar, chief analyst at CapGainr.com, said he believes Microsoft's latest Skype for Business update could make the company a key player in business video-conferencing, given the forthcoming Skype release's integration with Active Directory, improved user interface, new dashboard and integration with Office apps.

"Basically, this puts Skype for Business on-par with [Google] Hangouts from a tech capacity/use case standpoint. When Microsoft updates Skype for Business to be inclusive of the productivity suite access, this will then become my go-to video app. That's going to be a game changer for me," Salazar wrote. "This also is the next important evolution of video chat to pay very close attention to -- the buildout of cross-sell capacity" with Office 365 and the new Surface Hub.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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