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Microsoft Lync Takes Center Stage

It was Enterprise Connect 2013 meets Microsoft Lync 2013 when Derek Burney took the keynote stage on Wednesday. Burney, who holds the title of Corporate VP, Microsoft Lync and Microsoft Office Data, devoted the entirety of his talk to showing off some of the highlights of the latest Lync release--prefacing his demos with the information that it was all running on Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365, a integration that is scheduled to go live across the service sometime in the next 18 months.

Burney started out by demonstrating the ease with which a new user can be added to an Office 365 account, with whatever Office application licenses the enterprise desires--the first time this function had been demo-ed publicly, he said. Burney then moved on to showing Lync on a range of mobile clients--starting with Windows phone, of course, but moving on to Android and iPhones. He stressed that the client retains its "Lync-ness" while also being adapted for the design of each mobile OS, so that the user feels comfortable with the interface.

He discussed the Lync Web app for browsers, which lets any user join a meeting from a PC or Mac browser, which led Burney to the topic that's been hottest at this show, WebRTC. Though the Lync Web app today uses a plugin for the browser, Burney promised that Microsoft would support WebRTC, which he called a "super exciting initiative."

"As soon as the standard is ratified, we'll be delighted to move over to it," Burney said.

The other big element of the demo was Microsoft's move to push Lync into the conference room. Using two large touch-screen displays, Burney showed single-touch joining for a meeting, and demonstrated how one screen could display Lync video and the other be an electronic virtual whiteboard, whose display can be saved as a file so that meeting notes are recorded--without people having to get out their phones and take pictures of the old-fashioned whiteboard.

With the demos completed, Burney talked up Microsoft's Enterprise Connect announcement of a deal to offer Lync through AT&T as a channel, as well as its UC offering through HP.

Though the demo-ed capabilities weren't breathtaking or groundbreaking, in many ways they represent the fulfillment of the vision that Microsoft has been talking about in its Enterprise Connect (and previously VoiceCon) keynotes going back to the second half of last decade: They've delivered a UC system that can (and in an increasing number of enterprises does) provide voice as well as IM/presence, video, desktop sharing--basically all the elements of a modern communications system. It can run on all the major platforms, wireline and mobile, and now is moving into the conference room as well. Given Microsoft's position in the enterprise, the popularity of the basic Lync system (IM/presence), and the willingness of many enterprises to give Lync Voice a look, it was an important session for enterprises to see.

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