As of 9/13/2010, the Microsoft Lync 2010 platform has been officially announced. Full Press Release available via http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2010/sep10/LyncPR.mspx. Having been a part of this community since its inception and watching the community grow in terms of partners, providers, systems integrators, and even within the Microsoft Unified Communications group itself, this is a very important milestone as we are now finally out of incubation and ready for primetime. I think that is an important item to note in that this is not a Version 1 product release from Microsoft. Since 2003, Microsoft has been working on developing the most innovative and feature rich unified communications platform starting with Instant Messaging with Office Live Communications Server 2003 - 2005, adding voice with Office Live Communications Server 2005 SP1 and Office Communications Server 2007 and the R2 release with the combining of the Microsoft RTC and Microsoft Exchange teams to create the Unified Communications Group, and now finally with the 2010 release, a fully functional Unified Communications & Collaboration platform.
In addition to the new platform features, and something that is near and dear to me personally, a complete update to the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API, Lync client SDKs, and Lync Server SDKs will also be included. Partners already in the Microsoft Lync Development Technology Adoption Program will be releasing new CEBP software for the platform ready for the Lync official release with vertical industry and cross horizontal solutions.
Another important note is that this release marks a milestone for Microsoft in the ability to truly connect its server platform architectures together like by providing a connected and integrated Unified Communications & Collaboration architecture by combining the power of the Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft SharePoint server environments offering customers within any industry the ability to collaborate and communicate like never before. Adding the development capabilities through Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 enhances the combined platform even further to the limit of imagination by providing solutions that integrate communication and collaboration functionality within line of business applications to help companies season their existing unique business processes.
The Microsoft Lync 2010 platform will include the following software products:
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 (Server)
Microsoft Lync 2010 (Client)
Microsoft Lync Web App (Web Client)
Microsoft Lync Online (Hosted UC Service)
My team and I have been part of the Microsoft Development and Infrastructure Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and have been working with Microsoft Lync through various beta stages and the current Release Candidate is simply awesome. We have already connected an Intelepeer SIP Trunk to replace our existing SIP Trunking solution and are already using the full workload of features including voice, IM, audio/video, and web-conferencing through the new Microsoft Lync 2010 client. The client upgrade from Communicator is hands down the best UI Microsoft has provided in 7 years since Windows Messenger. The interface is clean, sharp, HD-esque, and contacts are visible by photo instead of just a list of SIP addresses. The Contact Card feature which is almost like a digital business card is present through the Lync 2010 client and throughout my Microsoft Outlook 2010 inbox as well as within our SharePoint Server 2010 Internet and Intranet portal sites wherever a contact is present. Other stand-out features include the ability to separate out the video window from the client which provides better manipulation of the real estate of the screen. This is great when you have more than one monitor like I do, especially awesome if you are a financial trader and have a plethora of them (Hefei, do you know what a plethora means?). I also like the new dial pad and the contact status updates, but what's really cool is the ability to locate. This feature I believe is configurable (off/on) but from an application development perspective writing customer support applications, this is perfect for agent routing based on location/region which takes me to my next set of feedback.
The Microsoft Lync platform is a developers dream! If you are a Visual Studio developer, you need to start looking at the UCMA API and the Lync SDKs now, I mean right now! The ability to create the lightest of solutions by enabling the contact card and UC modalities within your existing applications is simple, but the ability to create your own customized Lync solution is just freaking awesome. Microsoft even provides templates to work off and with the new Microsoft Lync controls for Microsoft Visual Studio, developers can simply drag and drop items like the cool Lync Contact Card, search bar, and other controls directly to the development canvas. From a UCMA API perspective, developers have even further control to create unique line of business applications, custom routing, queuing, and other solutions that will provide instant ROI back to companies that invest in the Lync platform.
From a server and management perspective, the install was quick and the management console is slick and easy to use as well as allowed us to import our legacy settings from Office Communications Server 2007 R2 without having to recreate our dial plans or our custom application routing. That process alone is an understatement if you've worked in deploying legacy PBX environments. Adding legacy OCS 2007 R2 users was easy and we were able to maintain all of our DID and relative settings and policies which made migration simple. As a whole, we will have 21 resources on Lync by the end of September ready for the official release when it's available for download.
So why the name change to Lync? Personally, I'm glad to see the name change consolidation in Microsoft products. I remember being the 2004 Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond when one brave MVP stood up and asked the question directly to Steve Ballmer stating, why are the product names so long and convoluted? In a market where Google and Skype roll off the tongue, why is the product name a mouthful and why force all the acronyms? Such was the case with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 or Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 SP1, known as OCS and LCS respectively. So honestly, even though there will be some massive rebranding required by partners and by Microsoft, Lync is a great choice.
The following is the official response from Microsoft with regards to the name change:
We chose the name Lync - a combination of “link” and “sync” – because it really captures the desire people have for a truly integrated communications experience. We’ll bring that experience to life with Lync, by (among other things):
Making every interaction a virtual face-to-face meeting – any conversation can include video, application and desktop-sharing, and enable people to be fully present in meetings without being present in the room.
Staying connected with your choice of device while away from the office – easily move a call from your PC to a mobile device without disrupting the conversation, or use your mobile as your land line by having all calls present as if they’re originating from your office phone.
Giving IT administrators a single solution for real-time communications capabilities – Lync provides presence, IM, persistent group chat, audio, video and web conferencing and voice without requiring stand-alone conferencing or PBX systems
In summary, I encourage everyone to at least trial the software and definitely encourage developers to start playing with the code templates today via the MSDN network. Hats off to the Microsoft Unified Communications Group for all of their hard work and dedication, especially those who have been around since LCS 2003!
This is what we have been waiting for!
Viva la Lync!