In a blog post last week, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Skype Gurdeep Pall revealed changes for Microsoft Lync with a new name, a new user interface, and new features. In his blog, Pall said, "In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release and updates to the service in Office 365."
Microsoft intends to feature the best of Skype and Lync with the integration and updates. For example, the platform will adopt familiar Skype icons for calling, adding video and ending a call. Skype for Business keeps existing Lync capabilities such as content sharing, standard telephony features, instant messaging and audio calling with Skype users.
Skype for Business will also add video calling and integrate the Skype user directory—connecting Lync users with more than 300 million Skype users for messaging, calling and content sharing.
Current Lync Server customers will have access to the capabilities by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server; no new hardware will be required. Microsoft will also update Office 365 features.
Our observations: Microsoft Lync continues to gain momentum -- both as a partner with and a substitute for premise-based and hosted unified communications (UC) systems. For example, Lync integration is a “must have” for UC systems today. Microsoft’s move to further integrate Skype features and Skype’s user base means more Lync integration work ahead for UC suppliers.
The new features also reveal that Microsoft is further embracing the need for business video collaboration, and that Microsoft is willing to recycle “consumer friendly” user interfaces for business. Both of these elements speak to the focus of Microsoft’s business UC strategy.
But “Skype for Business” also means Microsoft is becoming a bigger competitive threat to incumbent IP telephony and UC suppliers as it improves features and further integrates a communications platform that serves over 300 million users. That’s good news for UC users, but no doubt Skype for Business will raise the anxiety levels for other hosted and premise-based UC providers.