Microsoft Previews Lync Android Tablet App, Skype Video Call Support

The tech titan is expanding its enterprise communications platform by embracing Android tablets and Skype video callers.

Microsoft is planning to release a native Lync app for Android tablets this summer, announced Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for Lync & Skype Engineering at Microsoft. The company is showing off an early version of the software during the Lync Conference in Las Vegas Feb. 18 to 20.

The upcoming release exemplifies Microsoft's platform-agnostic approach toward enterprise communications, which the company refers to as "universal communications." It includes rapidly iterating on apps for mobile platforms, even those of rivals.

"Lync supports Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac and Windows, and last year we delivered updates every quarter on nearly all of these," said Pall in a blog post. "On mobile, we added voice and video over IP, meeting content viewing, anonymous meeting join, and most recently, speech commands on Windows Phone."

Giovanni Mezgec, general manager for Skype and Lync, told eWEEK that the Lync app for Android tablets, Skype integration and an expansion of supported video conferencing systems, are proof that Microsoft is making steady progress in realizing its universal communications vision. The goal, he said, is to "enable anybody in an organization to talk to anyone else—in and out of said organization."

His company is investing heavily in baking Lync "into every device, every service that we can—Microsoft and third party, if they're willing—to enable new ways of communicating," said Mezgec. Those investments appear to be paying off.

Customers have "helped lead to double-digit revenue growth for Lync every quarter for the last five years, enabling Lync to become a [$1 billion] business and to ship more unified communications voice lines to enterprises than any other technology company in the world," boasted Pall in a statement. Mezgec also reported that since the platform's Skype integration went live, that more than 10,000 Lync customers have signed up to connect both platforms.

Building on the company's Lync-Skype integration efforts, Pall said that users of either service will soon have the option of seeing who they're conversing with. Previously, only voice and presence information was supported. "Today, we've taken this a step further by demonstrating video calling between Skype and Lync, making it possible for consumers and businesses everywhere to use video for nearly every conversation," he stated.

Microsoft also plans to harmonize its offerings, establishing a base set of functionality across its Skype apps and cloud services. For example, offered Mezgec, "every Skype client will be able to initiate a video call." Mezgec also pledged "further work with our TV partners." Skype will be preinstalled on select Samsung smart TVs, allowing users to make video calls from their living rooms.

Circling back to Lync, Mezgec said to expect integration with video conferencing gear from Cisco-Tandberg. The company will also beef up its cloud-based Lync Online offering by adding voice and PSTN (public switched telephone network) capabilities. By enabling PSTN, "you can connect to anything at any time," massively expanding communications options for mobile workforces and customer-facing organizations, Mezgec said.

The cloud will also help push Lync deeper into the company's software and services ecosystem. In addition to Office, Mezgec said to expect Lync support in its enterprise social network, Yammer.

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...