Somewhat overshadowed by today's news that Skype is partnering with Facebook comes a long expected announcement from the VOIP company: it is also partnering with telephony company Avaya to offer unified communication services. This follows Skype moving its business focused Skype Connect service out of beta. Of the "big three" unified communications companies (Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft), Avaya is the least well known, so this partnership may bring some cachet to the company's offerings.

In the first phase of the agreement, beginning next month, Avaya customers will have access to Skype Connect. This will enable Avaya users to use Skype's cost-saving service with Avaya's enterprise-grade security and compliance features. Some of the possibilities, according to a press release from the two companies, include:

  • Establishing Skype Click & Call buttons for inbound calling from Web sites
  • Establishing Skype Online Numbers for inbound calling from landline and mobile phones
  • Routing inbound calls from a Skype user to an enterprise extension

In the second half of 2011, the two companies will establish a "federation" to offer unified communication and enterprise collaboration services. This will constitute the second phase of the agreement and will include integrated "presence, instant messaging, voice and video" services.

This agreement, along with the Facebook partnership, should put to rest speculation that Cisco will buy Skype.

Skype brought Skype Connect out of beta at the end of August of this year. Skype estimates 37% of its users use Skype for business purposes. Skype is now facing competition in the freemium teleconferencing space from Nefsis, which recently launched a free service called Nefsis Basic.

Zeus Kerravala, of The Yankee Group, writes at No Jitter:

Overall I see this as a great step forward for our industry as it's the fist example of not only federation but also joint integration, which, as I said, has been sorely lacking. This deal isn't exclusive between the two so I would certainly expect to see other similar announcements between Skype and other mainstream UC vendors.

It may also be worth noting that Avaya recently announced an Android based tablet somewhat similar to the Cisco Cius. With an expected price tag of $2,000 it will compete more with video conferencing devices from Cisco and Polycom than with consumer multi-function tablets like the iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab.