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Goodbye 'Lync,' Hello 'Skype for Business'

Whether or not you see Skype as the "universal symbol of togetherness" that Microsoft corporate vice president Gurdeep Pall proclaims it to be in a company blog posted this morning, going forward you do need to view it as the company's go-to brand for enterprise communications.

In other words, say goodbye to Lync -- the name, that is, not the capabilities embodied in the enterprise communications software long known as such. As of the next release, due out first-half 2015, Microsoft will be offering enterprise communications under the Skype for Business designation.

"2013 is the last product that will carry the Lync brand," confirmed Gionvanni Mezgec, general manager of Lync product marketing at Microsoft, during a call with No Jitter yesterday.

Changing a product name can be messy and confusing, not always the best idea... unless you've got a much better one in your back pocket. And they don't come much better than Skype, widely known as it is among business users around the world and across generations. "We're betting on the Skype brand, its ease of use, and its global reach," Mezgec said.

So, really, the clock began ticking on "Lync" as long ago as October 2011 when Microsoft closed its acquisition of Skype. Those who find the name change surprising haven't been paying attention.

Microsoft merged its Skype and Lync engineering teams two years ago, so the integration of Skype's user interface with Lync's enterprise-grade security, compliance and control mechanisms have been underway for some time. But the release of the Skype for Business strategy is an "important moment," one that reflects Microsoft's commitment to finding innovative approaches to integration, Mezgec said.

From our conversation with Mezgec and in reading the Pall post, we know that Skype for Business will feature a new client, a new server and release and updates to the service in Office 365. All of the familiar Lync functionality will be there, including federation, but served through a Skype-influenced client, Mezgec said.

While Lync and Skype users have been able to send instant messages and conduct audio calls with each other, Skype for Business opens those capabilities, as well as video calling, to anybody in the entire Skype user directory. Microsoft Bing search technology comes into play here as well, Mezgec said, allowing Active Directory searches and secure connectivity.

As shown below, Skype for Business will feature the familiar Skype icons for placing a call, adding video to a call, and ending a call. In addition, Skype for Business will feature the Skype call monitor, which, as Pall explained in his post, "keeps an active call visible in a small window even when a user moves focus to another application."


Enterprises that have been using Lync Server 2010 and Lync Server 2013 may be inclined to keep calling their communications platform by that same name. But if they want the new capabilities, they will need to upgrade to the new Skype for Business Server software -- whether that's running in their data centers or hosted by Microsoft as part of the Office 365 cloud suite. Lync 2010 and Lync 2013 will interoperate with Skype for Business, Mezgec added.

In his blog post, Pall writes that Skype for Business will position the enterprise for transformation and greatly enhance productivity. Just as Lync transformed the way people communicate at work, he said, "Skype for Business will ... transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their businesses." Let's talk about this in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree?

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