Microsoft Lync: Office Communications Software Rebranded

Microsoft Lync is the new name for its Office Communications software, which gives enterprise users the ability to use VOIP, instant messaging, and conferencing on a unified platform.

Microsoft has given the next generation of its Office Communications software suite a streamlined, marketing-friendly name: Lync. Meant as a combination of "link" and "sync," Lync 2010 and Lync Server 2010 will offer users a unified end-user platform for enterprise telephony, instant messaging, video and audio conferencing, and application and desktop sharing.

The release candidates for both Lync 2010 and Lync Server 2010 can be downloaded from this Microsoft Website.

"Beyond simplifying and shortening the current branding, customer research found that the name Lync appeals to end users and IT pros, even more than descriptive options like Communicator," Kirk Gregersen, senior director of Communications Server Marketing at Microsoft, wrote in a Sept. 13 posting on the company's Unified Communications Group Team Blog. "We were pleased that most people in research and internally gravitated toward Lync."

Lync has been built with an eye towards interoperability with Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Exchange. Other features include the ability to select multiple people from a contact list to make a group call; test a network connection before initiating a video call; and flipping between VOIP (voice over IP), instant messenger, video, and app sharing within the same client experience.

In keeping with Microsoft's increasingly cloud-centric product strategy, the Lync family will also be complemented by Lync Online, a hosted service that rebrands Microsoft Office Communications Online. However, Microsoft is keeping tight-lipped about details. The influence of the cloud is also seen in Lync's ability to port an ongoing conversation from a PC to a mobile device without interruption; that same sort of functionality is finding its way into a variety of Microsoft products.

"With nearly 20,000 people inside Microsoft and more than 100 enterprise customers already using the Lync 2010 beta, the R&D team is on track to deliver the product to market before the end of the year," Gregersen wrote. "The R&D team has gathered and incorporated tons of great feedback in the release candidate, including many suggestions from previous releases (check out the new dial-pad in Lync 2010 as just one example)."

In February 2009, analyst company Forrester estimated that the overall unified-communications market would be worth roughly $14.5 billion by 2015. That alone would be enough reason for Microsoft to continue its aggressive cycle of software releases.

"Communications centered solely around the desk phone and built on hardware-based systems are quickly becoming a relic of the past," Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft, wrote in a March 24 post on the official Microsoft blog. "Even in this nomadic world a mobile phone is not sufficient-neither is it rich enough for collaborative work, nor are companies willing to reimburse upwards of $600 a year per employee for their mobile bill."