Microsoft plans to add a Standard edition when it rolls out its Skype for Business Server 2019 product this year, according to a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP).
Anthony Caragol, a principal consultant at SWC Technology Partners and an MVP, made that claim in a Feb. 8 blog post, citing permission from Microsoft to disclose it. (I reached out to Microsoft, but there has been no confirmation as yet.) Update 2/9: a Microsoft spokesperson today affirmed there will be a Standard edition.
Microsoft has previously suggested that Skype for Business Server 2019 would preview in mid-2018, with product release expected in late 2018.
Caragol noted that Microsoft had specifically indicated last year during an Ignite session that the Standard edition was going to get axed from the new Skype for Business Server 2019 product. That Ignite session noted that Skype for Business Server 2019 was going to be a more enterprise-focused product. While small businesses could still use the server version, they would have to use the Enterprise edition product on-premises or use Microsoft’s Office 365 services. The Ignite session also listed the minimal requirements to run Skype for Business Server 2019 as having to also use Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016.
The prospect of not having a Standard edition didn’t appear to be popular, based on user voice feedback, which showed 477 votes in favor of keeping a Standard edition of Skype for Business Server 2019. Caragol mentioned in his blog post that the Enterprise edition of past Skype for Business Server products required using a “full version of SQL,” which could be a deal-breaker in terms of cost for smaller organizations.
In general, Microsoft indicated during its Ignite session that all organizations, including those using the new Skype for Business Server 2019 product, should pilot Microsoft Teams. It laid out that vision in the following slide:
Microsoft has previously indicated that Teams will be the preferred client for Skype for Business users, although it’s still planning to release a new server product and continue the Skype for Business Online service. Given Microsoft’s heavy emphasis on Teams, though, at least one analyst has wondered about how long Microsoft will continue to support the Skype for Business product line.
According to the Ignite session, there will be supported upgrade paths to Skype for Business Server 2019 from the earlier Skype for Business Server 2013 and Skype for Business Server 2015 products. The preferred upgrade process will be “side-by-side upgrades.”
The 2019 server product is expected to deliver many (but not all) of Microsoft’s Skype for Business Online cloud service improvements to organizations. As a consequence, end users are expected to get a more consistent experience. The Ignite session was bullish on “hybrid” (server plus services) types of environments as offering the most value for organizations.
In other Skype for Business Server news, Microsoft released Skype for Business Server 2015 Debugging Tools version 6.0 last week. Caragol noted in a TeamsRecap show Thursday that this release is thought to fix some crash problems seen with an earlier release of the tools.
Microsoft also updated the Skype for Business on Mac client last month. It now shows chats in “a single tabbed window or in separate windows.” End users can modify the size of shared screens. Instant messages now can be automatically accepted. Microsoft also added an offline indicator in the client, among other improvements.