Microsoft unified communications tool Lync-Skype gets updated

The Microsoft unified communications roadmap combines Lync and Skype to ease work and home interactions. But do employees need this connectivity?

Microsoft updated the roadmap for its Lync unified communications platform recently, detailing how it will more tightly connect Lync and Skype for presence, instant messaging and voice. The company also showed off Lync 2013 mobile apps for Windows Phone, Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

The company hopes that by marrying Lync, Skype and other products over the next 18 months, it can seamlessly tie employees' work and home environments, according to the Microsoft unified communications strategy.

"We are all simultaneously consumers and professionals, friends [and] family; and our communications technologies need to move between these dimensions as seamlessly as we do," said Tony Bates, president of Microsoft's Skype Division, during a keynote address at the first Lync Conference this week.

In filling out its roadmap, Microsoft said the next version of Lync Server will be available in the second quarter of 2014. Officials said the Microsoft-hosted version of Lync server, called Lync Online, will be updated on a quarterly basis, which is the same schedule as Office 365.

Lync-Skype connectivity is due out in June, and it approaches communications in a unified way rather than as technology silos. It enables what Microsoft officials refer to as "B2X," using business communications to encourage human interactions.

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"What we showed today for the first time was Lync and Skype connecting, where you can make a call from Skype to Lync and from Lync to Skype," said Giovanni Mezgec, a senior director at Microsoft. "This means with a Lync client, I can put in a connection with a Skype ID. I will be able to see the presence information of the Skype ID, as well as initiate a text message or voice call."

Also expected sometime over the next 18 months is enterprise voice support for Lync Online, along with structured meeting support for both Lync Online and Lync Server. The latter capability allows those still using Live Meeting to more easily move over to Lync, company officials said.

Microsoft also debuted Lync Room System to help create "collaboration-enabled conference rooms." The technology is intended to makes it easier to share content on a computer in the same way users share videos.

The Lync Room system can be configured so that users can start meetings without having to manually hook up a number of different teleconferencing components. Four vendors, including Creston, LifeSize, Polycom and SMART, pledged to bundle Room System with their products.

This was last published in February 2013

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