How Microsoft Lync capabilities measure up in the marketplace

Learn how Microsoft Lync capabilities measure up to similar unified communications platforms in the marketplace.

Today's knowledge worker is a virtual warrior, relying on different tools to collaborate and communicate with colleagues nearby and around the world. Microsoft Lync is one of those tools and picks up where Microsoft Communicator left off. It not only works as a viable collaboration tool, but works seamlessly with other Microsoft applications -- which many enterprises use.

Microsoft integration one of the top Lync capabilities

Lync mobile apps extend Lync capabilities, such as voice and video calling, beyond the desktop to tablets and iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 mobile devices.

Martin Barron,
senior consultant, Microsoft

Microsoft Lync stands as a rough-and-tumble unified communications (UC) platform for small, medium and large enterprises, and its convenience and compatibility with other Microsoft applications is attractive. For example, it integrates with Microsoft's Outlook and OneNote, wherever they're located. In addition, it stands as a single platform for many communication applications, including instant messaging, audio, video, and conferencing and telephony. Its enterprise-rich features and compatibility with other established communication technologies render it ripe for success as a tool of choice.

"Techies love the fact that the platform can be fully virtualized and managed with PowerShell," said Martin Barron, a senior consultant with Microsoft and previously lead architect for Microsoft unified communications at En Pointe Technologies in Los Angeles. "Lync Online also offers a great experience with the product delivered as a service in the cloud. Lync mobile apps extend Lync capabilities, such as voice and video calling, beyond the desktop to tablets and iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 mobile devices."

Lync also integrates with Skype. Lync users can add Skype contacts and essentially allow a communication pipeline to Skype's wide array of users and reach. This is a recent development that was completed in mid-2013.

Barron said CIOs like how Lync works with BYOD initiatives and also how it enables Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP). He adds that Microsoft's competitors are still selling into their existing silos, such as VoIP and video conferencing, with much of the competition coming from Cisco and Avaya Inc. Both companies are feeling the competitive pressure from the emergence of Lync.

Competitors reaction to Microsoft Lync's capabilities

"Cisco has been actively making acquisitions and revamping their Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Presence Server (CUPS) and Telepresence product lines -- for instance, adding Jabber to go head to head with Microsoft," Barron said. "Most other competitors remain heavily focused on VoIP and hardware sales while adding new functionality, either through acquisitions or integration with third-party vendors, whereas Microsoft offers a complete solution in a single software package. In my opinion, we will see competition in this space increase significantly over the coming years, as the market size is estimated at 17 billion."

Many large customers with existing investments in UC operate within hybrid or converged environments comprising many different solutions. Interoperability and convergence will still receive attention from vendors, but ultimately they will be looking to compete across every device, platform and use case. Microsoft remains the winner in this space, Barron said, given the scalability and extensibility of Lync, as well as the ROI benefits and flexibility with deployment options.

According to Charles Studt, vice president of product management and marketing for the San Mateo, Calif.-based IntelePeer, the key competition for Microsoft Lync includes Avaya, Cisco and Unify Inc. (formerly Siemens).

"These vendors offer competitive features, high-quality voice and video, sharing, and other important business features," Studt said. "Avaya, Cisco and Siemens also combine on-premises phones and equipment."

Studt added that large vendors such as Cisco and Unify can also bundle UC with networking equipment, which provides a way for them to compete with Microsoft from a value perspective.

For smaller businesses that do not necessarily have a Microsoft Enterprise or Office 365 deployment, other smaller vendors and service providers offer a more simple hosted deployment model, which is available at an attractive monthly fee. However, they lack the full spectrum of features offered by Microsoft Lync and its direct UC competitors. But smaller enterprises may not need them.

The landscape for unified communications is fertile as more businesses and individuals rely on applications, technology and devices to enable communication. On this premise, Microsoft Lync, with its corporate horsepower behind it, can emerge as one of the big dogs. Time will tell if Lync's design will meet user needs and keep up with its competitors.

Compare Cisco and Lync features in part two of this article.

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