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Finding the Missing Lync

One of the biggest shocks to the business telephony market came when Microsoft entered the game. Initially, many industry watchers poo-poo'd Microsoft's efforts, warning that "blue screens of death" would soon appear on our desk phones.

The recent Lync Conference indicates that the naysayers were wrong. And what is most telling about Microsoft's trajectory is the growth and scope of its business partners: From Diamond Sponsor HP to Platinum Sponsors Sonus, Dell, Polycom, and AT&T, and small Nordic companies trying to break into the U.S. market, the number of companies that have cast their lots with Microsoft Lync is extraordinary.

There are Fortune 500 companies on that list, along with companies like Blync, Vytru and Colima. Some have "bet the farm" on Lync, which says a lot about their expectations for Lync's success in the market.

Some of the best business innovation occurs when a nimble entrepreneur finds a gap in a product or service and jumps in to fill it. Many such situations were shown at the Lync Conference, and I was particularly impressed with the number of contact center vendors in the exhibit hall and on panels, discussing how their products could supplement Lync's core capabilities.

Along with established contact center players like Aspect, Interactive Intelligence, Genesys, Clarity Consulting, Mitel (PrairieFyre), and Zeacom, there were several companies that I was not familiar with, such as Geomant Enterprise Solutions, ZyLink, Dolphin, Comptella, and others. Many of these are touting "native Lync integration" using UCMA, a developer platform for implementing communication-enabled and collaboration-enabled services on top of Lync Server 2013. Our UCStrategies colleague, Don Van Doren, did an entire session on the 36 companies in this category.

Another area that Microsoft is leaving to others is room-based video conferencing and whiteboard collaboration. With the Lync Room System, Microsoft provides Lync's UC and collaboration capabilities along with a set of hardware specs.

A few partners (Polycom, Crestron, and Smart Technologies) deliver the integrated hardware and software optimized to join Lync meetings. SMART introduced its new SMART Room Systems for Lync that adds touch-based interactive sharing, enabling "touch and inking" into any PC-based application for an enhanced collaboration experience.

Crestron demonstrated its room system and single control system using the Crestron touch screen. And while not offering room systems, Logitech demonstrated a range of "ConferenceCams," headsets, and speakerphones optimized for Lync, including its new BCC950 ConferenceCam, designed for executive offices and home offices.

Another key part of the Lync ecosystem is headsets, and they were on display from Jabra, Sennheiser and Plantronics. Plantronics got lots of attention with its Smart Presence application and seamless transfer technology, which can automatically transfer an active Lync call from the user's computer to their mobile phone when they move away from their desk. The Smart Presence application can change the user's Lync presence status to "In a call" when they are on a call using their desk phone, softphone, or mobile device.

Gateways, session border controllers (SBCs), and Survivable Branch Appliances (SBAs) are all necessary parts of a Lync implementation. Two of Microsoft's key partners in this area, AudioCodes and Sonus, were well represented at the event (thanks for the fun party, AudioCodes!). Sonus, which gained Microsoft OCS and Lync experience from their acquisition of NET, is expanding as more companies convert to Lync.

On the UCaaS front, there were hosted providers of all sizes, from AT&T to BT and Verizon side-by-side with smaller companies like UnifySquare and IntelePeer. IntelePeer used the conference to formally launch its CoreCloud UC hosted Lync solution. IntelePeer saw a gap in the market in terms of hosted Lync offerings, and launched two versions of its hosted Lync service, one tied to Office 365, and a multitenant version that offers voice capabilities through IntelePeer's SIP trunking service with Lync, Exchange, and SharePoint.

The last part of the puzzle was the system integrators and VARs that are putting all of these solutions together; they were there in abundance. It was no surprise that HP, which has had a strong and comprehensive Lync practice for several years, brought a strong presence to the event. What was more surprising was resellers like Carousel and Arrow S3, both of which have primarily been Avaya partners, expanding their services into the Lync world.

All told, the second Lync Conference was a major triumph for Microsoft and the entire Lync ecosystem. It will be interesting to see how this momentum carries over to Enterprise Connect in Orlando later this month.

See you there!

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