Is a Low-cost Calling Plan in the Plans for Office 365?

Now that Microsoft has officially launched its new cloud-based Office 365 online services suite, the next logical question is — what’s next?

According to a published report, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) plans to add low-cost calling to the mix.

At a local press event on Microsoft’s campus to coincide with the webcast launch of Office 365 on Tuesday, the president of Microsoft’s Business Division, Kurt DelBene, reportedly told The Seattle Times that the Skype calling service, which Microsoft agreed to purchase for $8.5 billion in May, will be added to a future version of Office 365.

“Office 365 will be the first place Skype will be added to a Microsoft product when Microsoft closes its purchase of Skype,” Times technology reporter Sharon Pian Chan said in a blog post.

“Office 365 will be the lead offering along with the client that should drive parity [with Skype], Chan quoted DelBene as saying.

Microsoft declined to comment on DelBene’s reported comments.

However, when Microsoft announced the Skype deal — which has passed U.S. regulatory approval but not with other officials around the world yet — CEO Steve Ballmer said he sees synergies between Skype and Microsoft’s Lync unified communications server.

As it turns out, Lync Online — the cloud hosted version of Lync 2010 — is a key component of Office 365. No surprise, then, that Lync comes under the auspices of the Microsoft Business Division. Among other capabilities, Lync provides instant messaging, as well as voice and video calling.

Office 365 provides customers with cloud-hosted online versions of Exchange 2010 for email, SharePoint 2010 for collaboration, and Lync 2010, as well as with Web-based Microsoft Office Web Apps and the option of licensing Office 2010 Professional on a subscription basis.

Although Office 365’s predecessor, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) was marketed primarily to enterprise customers, Ballmer on Tuesday played up the benefits of Office 365 to small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), a clear market for Skype’s audio and video calling services.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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