ICYMI: Updates on Microsoft Office 2019 and the Future of Skype for Business

By Joshua Osborne

Director of Client Services - Microsoft, NPI

February 07, 2018

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In case you missed the news that came out of Microsoft’s Ignite! last fall, here are two items regarding Microsoft Office 2019 and Skype for Business that impact enterprise customers. As we work with clients, we’re finding that they’re not necessarily aware of this news and its implications.

First is the release of Microsoft Office 2019, scheduled for the second half of 2018. Microsoft Office 2019 will come with updated versions of the usual application suspects (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook client applications) along with the respective server software versions (Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business). Service enhancements to usability, security, voice and manageability will also be included.

Office 2019 will be interesting primarily for users/businesses that are still using the on-premise version of Office. If you’re using Office 365, you’re probably already taking advantage of many of these updates and feature upgrades. This is certainly where Office 365’s “continual updates” prove to be a benefit, and one of the reasons why enterprise customers are flocking to the solution. Companies are finding it harder to stay with SA on on-premise Office as their refresh cycles are lengthening.

If you’re mulling the switch from on-premise Office to O365, it’s important to assess whether you need/want the feature upgrades being delivered. While some of the feature enhancements are useful, many are more directed towards UI improvement and other “flash-and-sparkle”-type improvements.

Knowing what’s most important to your business from a feature and functionality perspective, and Microsoft’s roadmap as it relates to those aspects, should weigh into your decision (as well as which license/subscription option you ultimately pursue).

The second update is on Skype for Business, which will soon be replaced by Microsoft Teams (despite Teams not being even one year old). Microsoft takes aim squarely at Slack with this move as it seeks more share of the workplace collaboration market. This replacement isn’t surprising for those who have followed Microsoft’s evolution in this product category. Before there was Skype, there was Lync – and before that there was Office Communications. Teams is slated to have its server software updated in the second half of 2018 (although curiously Microsoft is still calling it Skype Server) and Microsoft is promising some pretty neat stuff in regards to AI, machine learning, cognitive services and speech recognition.

This is good news for enterprise customers that have been waiting for Microsoft to relinquish its “behind the curve” position for enterprise communications and telephony. Microsoft is demonstrating that the company is heavily focused on building out the features and infrastructure to compete with incumbents like Cisco and IBM. We can expect to see the vendor incentivize and discount these solutions now to ‘lock-in’ customers from a licensing perspective.