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After nearly three years of fits and starts, Microsoft plans to deliver in January interoperability between Microsoft Teams and the consumer version of Skype.
The integration will let users of the two cloud-based collaboration applications message and call one another without switching apps. Skype for Business, which Microsoft is encouraging users to abandon in favor of Teams, has had the same interoperability for years.
The upcoming feature is good news for organizations that were frustrated over their inability to use Teams to communicate with external clients or partners on consumer Skype. More than 3,000 people endorsed a request for the integration on Microsoft's user feedback website.
After initially denying the request in 2017, the company tentatively slated the feature for launch in 2018 before shelving it once again. Microsoft recommitted to building the integration in June and promised in its September roadmap to release the feature in the first quarter of 2020. The vendor updated its target this month to a January 2020 rollout.
However, interoperability between Microsoft's enterprise and consumer communications apps is not as important as it once was, said Tom Arbuthnot, a technology architect at Modality Systems. Modality is a Microsoft-focused systems integrator.
In Skype for Business' heyday, customers tried in vain to persuade Microsoft to allow external guests to join business meetings using consumer Skype. Now, Teams lets users join meetings in a web browser without plugins or downloads.
Meanwhile, Teams customers are still waiting for Microsoft to deliver better ways to collaborate with external parties that also use Teams. The app lacks a configuration akin to Slack's shared channels, which let employees work across organizations.
"The bigger demand area right now is for Teams federation across company boundaries," said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. The feature would eliminate the need for guest accounts and provide more control over security.
More Microsoft Teams features on tap for January 2020
Also, next month, Microsoft will enable new integrations between Teams and Outlook. Buttons in those apps will let users share information between them.
Users will be able to transfer the contents and attachments of an email to Teams and to export Teams messages to Outlook. They will also be able to sign up for email alerts for messages and to reply to messages from within Outlook.
The email integrations will bring Teams nearly on par with rival Slack, which launched similar capabilities earlier this year. However, unlike Microsoft, Slack also supports interoperability with Gmail.
Another feature on the roadmap for January is read receipts, which will give users the ability to see whether their colleague has read a direct message.