Skype adds new features to business-oriented service

Enterprise clients now offered greater central control and IT management, plus optional tools and services.

Skype has expanded its Skype For Business package to include features for improved central management and IT administration, as well as optional add-ons, the company announced Thursday.

The eBay-owned Internet telephony company first announced its enterprise offering in 2004 and launched it last year to expand its success beyond the consumer market. Now, Skype counts 30 percent of its worldwide users as "business users," and has initiated an expansion of its business services, as on CNET News.com.

The new features in Skype For Business primarily concern internal management: a more efficient process for installing the software on multiple workstations, and an expanded "business control panel" for administrators so that they can distribute SkypeOut calling minutes, assign phone numbers and deal with company-wide invoices.

While many of the features in Skype For Business are analogous to its consumer offerings--video calling, text chat, SkypeOut for making external calls and SkypeIn for receiving them--the enterprise version has a separate home page and exclusive opt-in "extras" created in collaboration with third-party companies. Some of Skype's new business extras include screen-sharing tools, conferencing software and "call center" services.

The new Skype For Business features are , which was launched in December. Until now, however, the buzz and marketing about the new release had primarily focused on the consumer marketed.

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