Microsoft Lync Official Launch in New York City

Read all about the experience happening live at the Microsoft Lync Launch event in New York City with special guest Bill Gates led by Microsoft Corporate Vice President and head of the Microsoft Business division, Chris Capossela and Vice President, Gurdeep Singh Pall, head of the Microsoft Unified Communications Group!

Lync in NYC

Today, Microsoft officially announced and launched the next generation in communications technology in the enterprise with the new Microsoft Lync platform.  As a former Microsoft and Microsoft Research consultant having been involved with this technology since Live Communications Server 2003, this is a very emotional and exciting time for everyone involved.  The Microsoft Lync 2010 platform is the beginning of a new way of enterprise communication and is an entry into what is to come with new integration capabilities ranging from XBOX to the Cloud. 

At the Lync launch event, which was special invite only, and I do very much appreciate Microsoft sponsoring my travel to the event and the event festivities, Chris Capossela and Gurdeep Singh Pall lifted the covers off of the new Lync platform and showcased new features of the Microsoft Lync client and server applications with a little help from an extremely special guest who has been involved since the beginning and even with my team in the Communications Incubation Center at Microsoft Research, none other than Bill Gates himself.

Chris Capossela and Bill Gates

To kick off the keynote, Capossela started a Lync HD video call with Bill, who was back in Seattle, some 3,000 miles away.  The video quality was amazing and really showcased what you can do with Lync’s Telepresence capabilities while, quoting Gurdeep, “not spending $300,000” on proprietary and non-integrated archaic hardware.  Capossela went on to discuss the Lync strategy and its affect not only as a unified communications solution but its integration with Office, Windows, Windows Phone, Cloud computing, and even XBOX/Windows Live. 

As always, Gurdeep Singh Pall hit all the right notes and inspired the entire room by discussing the new features of the Lync platform, the strategy of the platform moving forward and a strong emphasis on application development capabilities of the platform (of which I have bet my career on having started and managed a leading CEBP provider in this space, Evangelyze Communications), as the clear differentiator from Microsoft’s competitors, namely Cisco.  Pall went through a detailed demonstration of the client application highlighting a complete PBX replacement walkthrough, softphone features of the Lync client, updated presence capabilities integrated with location-based awareness, scenario based use and last but not least, XBOX Kinect videoconferencing.

By far, in the past 7-8 years, this is the best UC event I have ever attended and I have attended and spoken at these events in every country.  What set this event apart was a great demonstration of specific working scenarios.  Starting with an HD Videoconference with Bill Gates, Pall and Capossela went through scenarios starting with basic peer-to-peer communication and instead of escalating the scenarios virtually, the Microsoft event team comprised of key resources like Aimee Chaille and Derek Whittle setup specific physical environments to simulate experiences ranging from:

A conference showing the new SMART Boards optimized with touch for Lync meeting rooms where Gurdeep and Chris were designing a new real estate location office space together using Microsoft Visio and Gurdeep using the SMART Board touch screen interface within the Lync conference to move objects around within the conference while his team seated at a conference table were partaking in a Polycom HD-enabled RoundTable conference showcasing panoramic video.

Next, Capossela conferenced in a simulated office furniture expert who was in a simulated café environment as what would be experienced using Lync at a local Starbucks.  With a coffee mug adjacent to the scenario-based user’s laptop, the furniture expert was able to join the conference and share information about specific chairs by sharing images during the same conference.

Topping off the physical scenario demos, Capossela pulled rank and moved from the podium to a simulated physical environment resembling a home living room.  In the living room was equipped a XBOX 360 elite with a Kinect device.  Chris waved his hand to sign into Windows Live Messenger running on the Kinect Videoconferencing service which is now enabled to communicate via IM, Video, and Voice to Lync as Chris so demonstrated by having a videoconference via this XBOX setup with Gurdeep using Lync back at the simulated office environment.

As I’m writing this, my head is spinning.  This is freaking cool guys!  Seriously, this is beyond Apple cool especially knowing, and as announced in the presentation that support for the iPhone and Windows Phone is coming in 2011.

Following the demonstration, key case study customers including Estee Lauder, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education, and CORRECT NAME HERMMERCHET, a German based tunnel engineering and manufacturing company, explained how not only has Lync excited and enhanced their entire workforce, but has saved each company millions by replacing their PBX infrastructure.  The panel was led by a Forrester Research Analyst who also announced their report today that Lync provides a 337% ROI and $10M plus savings for an organization the size of 5K resources or more over a three year span.

Re-iterating Gurdeep’s previous statements and backing him fully on this comment, Pall stated again that the world of the PBX is over.  It’s over!  Whether you chuckle at this notion and dismiss my blog as drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid, it’s the truth and you’re an idiot if you think otherwise.   After this statement was made, Gurdeep went over to the device wall and showcased specific vendors including Plantronics and Jabra noting their Lync certified headsets and then co-presented with the CEO of Polycom, one of the most trusted and popular IP Phone manufacturers in the industry who both showcased the release of several new Lync certified devices including the new Lync handset device which includes a color digital display of Lync features including the Lync Contact Card, moving on to the Polycom HDX Video device that provides a touch-screen Telepresence monitor for HD, Lync certified videoconferencing, moving on to the new Lync Polycom voice conferencing pod and finishing with the new Lync RoundTable device.  Hats off to Polycom as these devices are less expensive and 10x the features of a Cisco or Avaya phone device. 

Also featured were Aastra phones including their new Lync certified Common Area Phone.

To close the event, Gurdeep and Chris focused on the platform, which is my sweet spot.  The platform itself is the key differentiator for Lync against competitors like Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, etc.  The reason is simple.  Microsoft develops a server based product that is coupled with an API and SDK interface for developers to build rich and integrated applications to the platform.  They have done this since the 1980s and this is Bill Gate’s .NET vision on steroids.  By enabling the same development capabilities to Lync, a millions of developers who already write .NET, Visual Studio, Silverlight, and even CTI, iOS, and web based scripting applications can now tap into a resource pool of communication modalities ranging from voice to IM and conferencing.  This is Microsoft’s biggest strategy and is validated by the king of Apps, Apple.  Steve Jobs is 100% correct in that apps are sticky and once you have them they validate the platform, hence the iPhone.  Now look at Lync.  A true PBX replacement that saves organizations money and increases functionality available with an API interface and SDKs that allow developers to not only create fresh and new applications, but integrate existing applications with features like presence, user awareness, workflow, alerts, video, voice, IM, conferencing, mobility, etc. the list goes on.  This is Microsoft’s vision and the only limit is literally the sky of which Capossela exclaimed that Lync will be available in the cloud as a part of Office 365 in 2011.

Without getting too excited on my blog here out of respect of my readers, this is the strategy.  This is what I have poured my life savings into, sacrificed by writing code and managing a startup company working 70+ hours a week and traveling insanely for the past 2 ½ years, dealing with massive M&A activity, etc. proving that this is the hottest spot in technology.  I know this because I still write code and as a developer I am more excited about this than I have ever been in any technology in my 17 years working in this industry with Compaq, IBM, Accenture, Microsoft, and now with my company, Evangelyze Communications.  I am writing a Facebook app that journals your Facebook history and I’m still not as excited as I am with developing healthcare, education, and general communication applications for the Lync platform. 

So, without going nuts here, I hope I covered the gist of what happened in New York City and the official executive launch of Microsoft Lync.  And now we launch a new campaign called “Lync of the Possibilities” to help inspire Microsoft Visual Studio developers worldwide to generate new ideas, new apps, and hopefully all meet up at the next Microsoft event albeit the Worldwide Partner Conference, UC Summit, TechEd, or Connections, in what I would like to create as a Lync Developers Pub to create the next generation of software based communications.

Viva la Lync!

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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