Changes in the #hostedservices landscape

With the recent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft and growing speculation of future integration with the Lync solution, there have been a number of articles discussing the implications of this for hosted telephony services. Will a combined Microsoft / Skype offer impact the potential for service providers to offer a compelling solution?

Not in our opinion. In fact, we think that it will probably help grow the market for hosted services by stimulating interest and demand for a basic feature set and alerting users to the potential of a fully-fledged solution that offers greater functionality and features.

In particular, the advantages of a true mobile solution will become clearer. While it’s perfectly possible to support a Skype / MS client on a smartphone handset, this demands additional software which must be downloaded to the mobile device. What’s more, it can’t support full integration to the mobile network. Calls can be forwarded to mobile devices, but users want to be able to initiate calls from the mobile and still leverage features that they can on fixed terminals.

And, it’s essential that, for wide acceptance of the service, any client device can be used, whether it be a smartphone or a legacy 2G, 2.5G or 3G handset. In order to achieve this, service providers need to support a fully-fledged Mobile PBX service, which isn’t possible with a Skype / MS combination. What’s more, valuable features such as hunting between users in work groups need to be available. Similarly, service providers want to be able to support multi-tenancy models and need to think carefully about how to achieve this – such features are standard functionality of true Mobile PBX platforms, such as the Easy Virtual PaBX.

What’s more, enterprise users need consistent and reliable quality of service, something which is not guaranteed with Skype-based services as they exist today and may never in the future. Of course, access to P2P voice services, such as Skype is also regulated in some countries, which compounds uncertainty and increases risk for service providers – reducing the attractiveness of such services for enterprise users.

So, while the acquisition of Skype by MS is interesting news and is bound to stimulate interest in enterprises, it may also help whet their appetite for richer service packages, optimised for cross mobile and fixed network service delivery and supported by trusted communications providers, such as Mobile Network Operators.

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