Microsoft announced today that two of its big-name communications services – consumer-facing Skype and enterprise-ready Lync – will now interoperate, meaning users can access their Lync contacts via Skype and vice versa, and then message them or place an audio call. Support for video calling and other features, as well as support for additional platforms, are still in the works.
This news was pre-announced in February at a three-day conference solely dedicated to Lync, when the company spoke of Lync’s enterprise traction, noting that 90 out of the Fortune 100 companies use the service, and the entire ecosystem includes over 1,000 partners. Lync subscriptions have also grown from 3 million over a year ago to over 5 million, as of February, Microsoft said at the time.
But as Tony Bates, President of the Skype division at Microsoft, explained then, the idea with Lync and Skype interoperability is to enable what he dubbed “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,” he had said.
With the latest version of Skype, the Lync connectivity goes live just a couple of days ahead of the promised June launch timeframe. After signing in with a Microsoft ID, Skype users can search for Lync contacts by email, send them contact requests, then start chatting or Skype call them. (More detailed instructions are here on Skype’s official blog).
Meanwhile, Lync users, too, can follow a similar process to communicate with their friends and family on Skype. However, in this case, the setup process has to first be kicked off by the Lync administrators. Enterprise I.T. staff has to enable Lync-Skype connectivity in either Lync Server, or in the admin center within the Office 365 portal for Lync Online. Again, Skype users will need to have the latest client (Mac and Windows only for now), while Lync users can use either Lync 2010 or Lync 2013 to initiate the communications, including any of the 2013 mobile clients. (Instructions for Lync are here on the Lync blog).
Though Lync has been designed for the enterprise with those needs in mind, including things like administration with Active Directory, archiving and compliance tools, integration with Microsoft Office, extensibility with public APIs, and more, being able to reach any of Skype’s now 300 million active monthly users dramatically broadens the service’s reach going forward.
The effort to make this happen was no small undertaking. As TechCrunch previously reported, Microsoft made a lot of changes to Skype’s underlying P2P architecture as it scaled the service for the Live Messenger to Skype upgrade in advance of this move.