Microsoft Forges Skype, Lync into Enterprise Communications Platform

This summer, Microsoft will connect Lync 2013 and Skype in a move that the company hopes will disrupt and "humanize" enterprise communications market.

Microsoft's unified communications platform, is undergoing some major changes that according to Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of Lync, will bridge the disparate worlds of enterprise and consumer communications.

In June, Microsoft will enable voice and chat along with presence reporting between Lync and Skype. It's a move by Microsoft to shift the concept of communications from one that is dependent on place, device and professional context to one that is anchored by people.

"At home, at work... We have the tendency of focusing on the environment," Mezgec told eWEEK in New York City Feb. 12. "But fundamentally, it's the people that we want to make productive, and that's the core focus," he added.

Lync 2013 represents an opportunity to bridge Microsoft's business communications platform with the massive user base the software giant inherited when it acquired Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion.

"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," said Mezgec.

Connecting Lync and Skype wasn't only an endeavor in the technological sense. It also involved some significant structural changes for Microsoft. Mezgec revealed that Lync, formerly in the business software group at Microsoft, is now part of the new joint Skype division.

At Microsoft's inaugural Lync Conference in San Diego on Feb. 19, Tony Bates, former Skype CEO and current president of the Skype division, took to the stage to reiterate the theme of "putting people first" by integrating both technologies. Part of Microsoft's goal is "the re-humanization of communications," said Bates during his keynote speech.

In support of that mission, Lync 2013 sports a streamlined, Windows 8-like interface that at-a-glance emphasizes contacts, their status and methods of communicating with them (video, voice or chat). A standalone Windows 8 app is "optimized for touch" and features support for extensive gesture-based interactions.

Lync 2013 also gets some significant under-the-hood updates. According to Mezgec, it can now accommodate up to 250 attendees per virtual meeting and supports smart video feeds that automatically switch their focus to up 5 speakers. Even the codec, which was changed for improved efficiency and improved streaming fidelity, got a makeover, reported Mezgec.

These enhancements and the fact that Lync 2013 will seamlessly "talk" to Skype, add up to a new humanized era of business communications, claims Microsoft.

In a company blog post, Bates, explained, "This move will begin to enable what we call B2X. B2X places the focus of business communication on enabling human interactions. B2X puts people first and looks at communications in a unified way, not as disparate technology silos focused on one task or protocol."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...