Skype for Business will replace Lync, Microsoft's unified communications software platform for enterprises, next year, announced Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, in a Nov. 11 blog post.
"In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365," he wrote. "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." Microsoft estimates that over 300 million people use Skype to keep in touch and share content.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth has been working to bridge its Lync and Skype platforms for well over a year.
In early 2013, Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of Lync, revealed that the Lync division had been folded into the Skype business unit. He also announced some early steps the company was taking to allow Lync 2013 to connect with Skype users.
"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," Mezgec told eWEEK at the time.
Microsoft rolled out Lync-Skype voice and chat communications for Windows and Mac Skype desktop clients in May 2013. Skype for Business will add the Skype user directory and video calling to the mix, completing the integration.
Skype for Business will carry forward the company's efforts to provide a consumer-friendly software experience. Pall noted in his blog post that the upcoming software is "adopting the familiar Skype icons for calling, adding video and ending a call." Skype's call monitor, "which keeps an active call visible in a small window even when a user moves focus to another application," is also being carried over, he said.
While Microsoft is dropping Lync as a brand, its enterprise-grade features remain intact, assured Pall. He asserted that the software "keeps and improves on all of the capabilities of Lync, including content sharing and telephony. For example, transferring a call now takes only one touch or click instead of three."
Pall also suggested that his group is working to make the transition a seamless one for customers. "Current Lync Server customers will be able to take advantage of these capabilities simply by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their data centers," he said.
Customers that have already jumped on the Microsoft cloud bandwagon will have an easier time of it, he added. "For Office 365 customers, it's even simpler. We'll do the required updates."