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'Skype Professional Account' Service Hits Preview

A new Skype service aimed at small businesses that adds scheduling and billing functionality is now in preview, Microsoft announced this week.

The new offering, dubbed Skype Professional Account, is currently at the "closed preview" stage, according to its home page. Those who want to access the preview have to fill out a survey to be considered.

By enabling teleconferencing, Skype Professional Account is designed to meet the needs of the "growing network of professional consumers," Microsoft explained in its profile of Skype Professional Account alpha tester Laurel Thomsen, a violin performer and instructor. She used the service and tools to connect with her students around the world.

The Skype Professional Account service preview is for people who offer "lessons, tutoring, consulting," and more, according to Microsoft's announcement. It will have a desktop client, which will be first released as a preview in the U.S. market at some point. This desktop application will have tools to permit small business users to schedule meetings, add notes and accept payments from clients, using payment services such PayPal. It's possible to book a meeting and request payment at the same time using the software, according to Microsoft's description.

On the consumer Skype side, users will be able to see a searchable profile page of the Skype Professional Account user. It'll show things like the services that are offered and business hours.

Since the Skype Professional Account service is still at the early test level, there's no pricing announced yet. Microsoft described the desktop client application as being "free during the preview."

The Skype Professional Account service is yet another new offering from Microsoft that targets small businesses. For instance, Microsoft currently offers Microsoft Bookings and StaffHub, which get sold via Office 365 subscriptions. Microsoft Bookings permits external customers to book appointments with a business using a Web site calendar interface, while StaffHub is an internal employee scheduling service.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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