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Microsoft plans big Skype/Lync integration

Ballmer promises Lync won't be harmed by Skype purchase

By , Network World
July 12, 2011 08:48 AM ET

Network World - Skype will be thoroughly integrated with Microsoft's Lync communications software, assuming regulators approve the $8.5 billion acquisition, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this week.

Lync, which is being sold both as a server product and a cloud-based service, will not lose any prominence in the Microsoft software lineup once Skype comes on board, Ballmer said in a keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles.

Microsoft Lync: Take to the cloud or keep it in-house?

"With the combination of the power of Lync and Skype under the same umbrella, we think we're going to be able to do even more fantastic things together," Ballmer said.

Small businesses and enterprises deploying Lync will gain a secure form of communication with consumers and businesses because of integration between Lync and Skype, the latter of which offers Internet-based chats and voice and video calls, he said.

"I've been asked by partners if this Skype acquisition somehow means we're not serious or enthusiastic about Lync," Ballmer said. "Quite to the contrary. One of the great motivations in acquiring Skype is to enable the enterprise to have all the control it wants in communication and collaboration through Active Directory and Lync, and yet be able to connect people within enterprises to consumers, businesses and trading partners around the world. Lync, in some sense with Skype is a strategy that will allow the consumerization of IT to really proceed with full vim and vigor."

Microsoft's purchase of Skype is still waiting for regulatory approval, so the integration between Lync and Skype can't happen yet.

"Just like with any big acquisition, we have contact with Skype, certainly," Kirk Gregersen, Lync senior director, told Network World in an interview after Ballmer's speech. "We just can't start the integration until regulators have approved things."

Gregersen says he's not a Skype user himself, but that "for a lot of people there is obviously great value, for the 600 million Skype users out there. As Steve said, connecting all these people is great value both for the enterprise customers and those consumers out there."

Lync Server is positioned as a replacement for legacy PBX phone systems, and Ballmer praised the product's momentum. Lync provides "eye candy" to enterprise customers just as Xbox Kinect does to the consumer market, he said.

"Seventy percent of the Fortune 500 is now on Lync," Ballmer said. "Certainly if you look at a product from Microsoft that is growing most quickly, it is Lync in the enterprise."

While the exact nature of Skype's future integration with Lync remains unclear, there is also uncertainty over when the cloud-based version of Lync will become as robust as its on-premises sibling.

Lync Online, part of Office 365, is not yet a full PBX replacement, Microsoft acknowledges. The company's advice for Office 365 customers who want a robust unified communications platform is to deploy Lync Server within their own networks.

Lync provides three types of workloads: messaging and presence, conferencing, and voice, says Ashima Singhal, Lync group product manager. Lync Online users get the same IM, presence, and audio, video and Web conferencing capabilities - including desktop sharing - as customers who deploy Lync in-house, but the cloud-based voice capabilities are not as robust, she says.

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