The next version of Microsoft Lync will allow users to call anyone on Skype and use presence and IM with the service, marking a big step in the integration of Skype with one of Microsoft's fastest-growing platforms.
"This combination of the best of both products will enable customers to connect and collaborate without constraints from suppliers, customers and partners with the reach of Skype and the controls, manageability and enterprise-grade features of Lync," wrote Brian Crum, Microsoft Lync product marketing manager, in a Sept. 20 post to Microsoft's Lync Team Blog.
Microsoft completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, the popular consumer-centric VoIP and messaging service, in October 2011. Back in February, Microsoft CFO Peter Klein said Microsoft was developing bridges so that Lync and Skype users could easily communicate with each other, and Skype federation was mentioned around the preview release of Microsoft Lync Server 2013 back in July.
Crum's blog confirms that integration, however, and describes a Lync App designed for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices that will be released in late October. The Lync App will be available from the Windows Store and will be compatible with Lync Server 2010 and Lync Server 2013. It also will enable customers to unify voice and video calls, Lync Meetings and other Lync functions using their Windows devices.
According to Crum, the mobile Lync application also will see bolstered VoIP and video capabilities for Windows Phone, Apple iOS and Google Android devices, Crum said. Further, Lync will support H.264, multiparty HD video and include a range of enhanced meeting controls and other tools in Lync Meeting, including updated note-taking software called Shared OneNote.
Lync's embrace by both customers and the channel thrust Microsoft into the elite class of unified communications providers, where it competes head to head with Cisco, Avaya, Siemens Enterprise Communications and a number of smaller vendors.
Cisco, in particular, has launched UC updates and dangled partner incentives to head off the Lync threat, which is seen as growing, particularly after Microsoft's high placement in Gartner's most recent Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications.
"The Lync partner ecosystem continues to grow at a rapid pace," wrote Gartner analysts Bern Elliot and Steve Blood in the August 2012 report. "Enterprises that have Microsoft Exchange and other Microsoft products should consider the Lync solution and, at a minimum, understand how it might change their business processes and worker productivity."
Cisco earlier this year urged the European Commission to put conditions on Microsoft's Skype acquisition, saying that the move by Microsoft to integrate Skype exclusively with Lync would be bad for customers. Cisco CEO John Chambers also told reporters back in February that Cisco had its shot to acquire Skype but risked angering its service provider customers.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 24, 2012