Microsoft has made good on its plan to integrate Skype with Lync, announcing that the first phase of integration between the popular videoconferencing client and its industry-heavyweight unified communications platform has been completed. The initial stage of integration will give Lync users the ability to conduct audio calls, view presence status and instant message via Skype.
The first phase of the Lync/Skype integration is helping to meet the needs of the end user for unfettered and seamless communications, while giving IT the ability to manage their unified communications infrastructure without constraining the reach of end users, said BJ Haberkorn, director of Lync product marketing for Microsoft in a company blog post.
"[Employee end users] want familiar technology that enables them to work fluidly…across devices and contexts. At the same time, IT must manage technology for their organizations in ways that meet their full set of requirements," he said. "This combination enables Lync customers to take advantage of the global reach of Skype to connect and collaborate with suppliers, customers, and partners while relying on the enterprise richness of Lync."
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft -- who purchased Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011 -- announced its vision to federate its acquisition with Lync during the first annual Microsoft Lync Conference in February, but had kept any further integration details close to the vest until this week.
Once IT enables Lync/Skype connectivity on the Lync server or via the Office 365 portal for Lync Online, Lync users will be able to connect with Skype contacts using Lync 2010 or Lync 2013. Connectivity will currently be supported by Windows and Mac desktop clients, with more options coming soon as other clients are updated, said Giovanno Mezgec, general manager of product marketing, Skype division for Microsoft in a Skype blog post.
Using the latest Skype client, Skype users can start connecting to their Lync contacts by signing in to Skype with a Microsoft account, formerly Windows Live ID, and adding Lync contacts by email address.
While Lync and Skype users can only connect via instant message and audio calling, video calling will be enabled in further releases, Microsoft said.
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The Lync-Skype integration gets to the question of interoperability, an all-too-well-known barrier for the UC market, said Melanie Turek, vice president of research at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc.
"It hasn't been easy, or possible, to integrate across platforms to communicate with other users," she said.
But the Skype purchase has given Microsoft an interoperability story, and leg-up on its competition, Turek said. "Now anyone that deploys Lync will have the comfort of knowing their employees are going to be able to interact with partners and clients, even if they don't have Lync,” she said.
Skype has been primarily considered a consumer tool since its inception, but the Lync/Skype integration might signify that the videoconferencing platform is becoming a viable business tool.
“The integration may make Lync more attractive to the enterprise because of that interoperability, or it could also make Skype more attractive,” she said.
While it is yet to be seen whether enterprises will begin to trust Skype for business calls between partners and clients, the integration opens up a lot of communication possibilities for Lync users, without burdening IT with new security and interoperability concerns, Turek said.