Microsoft’s Lync, the company’s enterprise communications platform, doesn’t get a lot of hype, but it’s currently being used by 90 out of the Fortune 100 companies. The Lync ecosystem now includes more than 1,000 partners, and Microsoft has sold more than 5 million subscriptions to Lync’s voice service (up from 3 million just over a year ago). This week, the company is hosting a three-day conference solely dedicated to Lync. The big news from today’s conference is that Microsoft plans to enable Lync users to call Skype users and vice versa by June.
As Tony Bates, Microsoft’s president of its Skype division wrote earlier today, the idea here is to enable what he calls “B2X.” “B2X places the focus of business communication on enabling human interactions. B2X puts people first and looks at communications in a unified way, not as disparate technology silos focused on one task or protocol,” Bates wrote. The overall vision for Lync, writes Bates, is to “rehumanize communications” from the “living room to the boardroom.”
That’s a lofty goal that Microsoft’s own press release puts into slightly more practical terms: “This move puts Microsoft in the unique position of being the only company able to deliver communications solutions from the living room to the board room and all points in between.”
This new interoperability between Skype and Lync was surely aided by the fact that Microsoft made a lot of changes to Skype’s underlying P2P architecture as it scaled the service for the Live Messenger to Skype upgrade. Now that Skype doesn’t fully rely on P2P anymore, Microsoft is likely able to integrate it into its existing suite of products far more easily. Over the next 18 months, Microsoft also plans to make Lync interoperable with other third-party teleconference systems.
In this context, it is worth noting that there are already a number of other companies like BlueJeans that focus on making different teleconference systems interoperable.
As part of today’s event, Microsoft also announced that it is launching a new suite of Lync 2013 mobile apps for Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android. The Windows Phone and iOS versions will be available in March and the Android app will launch about a month later. These apps will now feature voice and video chat, and iPad users will also be able to view shared desktop and application content on their tablets.
On the hardware side, Microsoft today announced that its partners like Crestron, Lifesize, Polycom and SMART will soon launch their so-called “Lync Room Systems” for collaboration-enabled conference rooms that will be automatically configured and “make it easy to share any content on your computer as you share video.”