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Lync Takes Center Stage at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference

Microsoft’s worldwide channel chief told partners that unified communications—i.e., Lync--represents Microsoft’s next billion-dollar business opportunity.

One of the common themes here at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles this week is the emergence of Microsoft Lync, the software company's unified corporate IM, presence and collaboration tool as a major part of Microsoft’s business.

In a Wednesday-morning keynote to the 15,000-plus Microsoft partners in attendance at the Staples Center here, Jon Roskill, Microsoft’s worldwide channel chief, told partners that unified communications—i.e., Lync--represents Microsoft’s next billion-dollar business opportunity, and that it's a business ripe with opportunity for partner services and value-add.

Add to that Tuesday's main-stage comments from Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office business division, that Lync "takes what SharePoint did for collaboration and does it for unified communications," and that's a strong message from Redmond that Lync is not only here to stay, it's a product that's on the rise.

Let's put DelBene’s comments in perspective: SharePoint, Microsoft’s document-based collaboration portal, has been touted as the company’s fastest product from $0 to $1 billion per year in revenues. Not bad for a company that introduced ubiquitous brands like Windows and Office.

In fact, just two years ago at this same event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's biggest plea to partners was for more Microsoft partners to get certified on SharePoint to help it meet the massive demand for SharePoint integration projects it was seeing.

Next summer, when Microsoft once again convenes its annual super-meeting of its partners from around the world, could we be hearing the same kind of pleas for partners to focus on the massive opportunities in the marketplace around Lync? We certainly think so.

Here's some of the other action around the Lync opportunity that’s been going on here in L.A.:

* Microsoft introduced Communications as the newest competency certification within the Microsoft Partner Network, citing customer demand. "You asked for, we delivered it, go get it!" Roskill said of the unified communications opportunity.

* The company also announced an incentive program for partners developing solutions around Microsoft Lync.

* DelBene said there are 100 million existing IP phone lines up for grabs over the next few years.

* There’s also a tremendous greenfield opportunity. DelBene noted that Microsoft estimates that 30 to 40 percent of its customers today have no unified communications strategy or solution in place.