Microsoft's Skype unit launches Skype in the Workspace

Service to help SMBs connect with customers, experts and consultants

After beta testing the product for six months with 500 small businesses, Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Skype unit last week launched its Skype in the Workspace (SITW) platform for small businesses to connect with potential customers, partners and suppliers.

One of the beta testers, Mark Ralphs with U.K.-based market firm Ralphs McIntosh + Partners, commented in a blog that SITW is "likely to be most useful for small business with specific needs."

Ralphs also observed that SITW "will succeed or fail based on the quality of the community that grows around it; the balance of people offering and seeking services; and how well their needs overlap."

The SITW platform plugs into the user network offered by Skype, allowing small businesses to promote their products and services to new networks and connections. Users can improve existing connections and establish new ones by sending messages and talking to or meeting face-to-face with peers and business prospects over Skype.

According to Skype, SITW provides a central hub for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to connect with experts, coaches and consultants who can help them develop their businesses.

Small businesses join the community using their existing Skype accounts, then through a series of promotional tools can create public offers inviting community members to live sessions on Skype to demonstrate services or products to a wider audience. Users can also book appointments with potential customers or suppliers and keep track of them with a meeting notification service. When an opportunity is over, users can provide feedback on the product or service offered, Skype explained.

"Skype in the workspace provides you with a single, web-based platform to effectively run your business online. SITW is designed to be simple and straightforward for small businesses to use... Whether it is video calling with Skype or booking appointments to meet with new connections, it can all be done within the Skype in the Workspace environment," wrote Ural Cebeci, product marketing manager at Skype, in a blog.

The launch of SITW is the latest effort by Microsoft to tap into the growing business market for Skype. Last month, the company moved its Lync unified communications platform over to Skype, signaling its intention to focus Skype more on the business communications market.

For more:
- check out Skype's release
- read Ralphs's blog

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