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Microsoft updates Lync video conferencing technology

Microsoft updates Lync Room System, giving the video conferencing technology the same user interface as Skype for Business.

Microsoft has updated the Lync Room System video conferencing platform to match the user interface (UI) of Skype for Business. The move will make operating the system easier for workers and help Microsoft capture sales of video conferencing technology for huddle rooms, which are expected to increase in number over the next few years.                                                                                                                                                                           

Microsoft rolled out its "cumulative update" for Lync Room System this week. The software is used in video conferencing gear from Crestron Electronics, Polycom Inc. and SMART Technologies.

The updates will help Microsoft expand its video conferencing technology into small huddle rooms, which are spaces used for ad hoc meetings or conferences with a few people, according to Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

Huddle rooms in office buildings are expected to double in number over the next year, Elliot said. Some rooms will be outfitted with video conferencing technology, an area of heavy investment by Microsoft.

"The workspace has become more open, and if you're going to do a video conference you have to go into a private space so that you're not distracting to your colleagues," Elliot said.

A forthcoming Gartner report estimates that video systems purchased for huddle rooms will account for 10% of the market this year and 20% in 2016. The same report, set to be released in December, estimates that group video conferencing technology usage throughout the enterprise will increase 400% by 2019.

Microsoft wants to be the vendor to outfit these new rooms with video conferencing technology, instead of its competitors Mitel, Avaya and Cisco. The vendors compete in a market expected to reach $2.9 billion in 2020, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc., based in San Jose, Calif.

With the new Microsoft update, users will see a "sleeker, darker design theme," but functionality will not change, according to Microsoft. Also, users will only have to learn one interface when using Lync Room System or Skype for Business.

"They're trying to make a more consistent user experience, whether you're at your desktop, in a conference room or on mobile," said Rob Arnold, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, based in San Antonio, Texas.

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