One of the last big barriers between Lync, Microsoft's unified communications platform for businesses, and Skype has been demolished.
Lync users can now place video calls to Skype account holders and vice versa, the company announced on Dec. 5. "Now Lync users can conduct everyday business and collaboration 'face-to-face' with customers, partners and suppliers who use Skype," said BJ Haberkorn, director of product marketing for Microsoft Lync, in a blog post.
There is a catch, however. While Lync users only require a current version of the Lync 2013 client for Android, Apple iOS or Windows, the capability requires that Skype users have a Windows desktop client (version 7.0.x.100) installed. But other compatible mobile versions are on the way.
"We will extend support to the Skype clients on additional platforms, starting with Android and iOS in the coming months," added Haberkorn. Microsoft also intends to support SkypeIDs and integrate worldwide Skype directory contact management features when the Lync rebrand takes effect next year.
Microsoft has been consolidating its Lync and Skype business units since early 2013. "By bringing the assets that we have on the consumer front with Skype and on the enterprise front with Lync, we can have a unified platform that really brings communications from the living room to the boardroom in a way that makes sense and is rationalized and connected rather than having disconnected islands," Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of Lync, told eWEEK at the time.
On Nov. 11, Microsoft announced that it will leverage one of its most popular brands by renaming Lync to Skype for Business sometime during the first half of 2015. Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, pledged "a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365," in a company blog post.
"We believe that Skype for Business will again transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business," he continued. More than 300 million people use Skype, according to company estimates.
For now, Microsoft is working to deliver a secure, high-fidelity experience, revealed Haberkorn.
Lync-Skype video calls feature "enterprise class encryption of both media and signaling using TLS [Transport Layer Security] and SRTP [Secure Real-time Transport Protocol], enabled by default," he said. "It includes connectivity, with standards-based traversal of personal and corporate firewalls using STUN [Session Traversal Utilities for NAT], TURN [Traversal Using Relays around NAT] and ICE [Interactive Connectivity Establishment]."
On the video front, the integration "includes high quality, scalable video using the industry standard H.264 SVC codec," stated Haberkorn. Audio is handled by Skype's own SILK audio compression standard, which "is used for billions of minutes of audio calls every day, and provides a phenomenal balance between audio quality, bandwidth utilization and power consumption."