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Microsoft Unites Skype and Lync, Cisco Protests

Microsoft has started integrating Lync and Skype, as expected. Phase 1 doesn't include video support, but Cisco's claims of "monopoly" indicate it's concerned.

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Microsoft on Wednesday announced that it has completed the first phase of its Lync-Skype integration, allowing more than five million Lync enterprise users to connect to Skype's base of 300 million accounts.

For now, users are confined to instant messages and audio calls. Additional features, such as video chat, are scheduled to come online later, but even in its incomplete form, Microsoft's growing unified communications platform already has the attention of at least one major competitor -- Cisco, which argued before a European Union court Wednesday that Microsoft's purchase of Skype constitutes a monopoly.

The integration supports both Lync 2010 and Lync 2013. Skype users, meanwhile, will need the latest version of the client, and must sign in with a Microsoft account. Users of either service will be able to add contacts from the other. Lync admins who did not previously enable Lync-Windows Live Messenger federation will need to turn on Skype connectivity.

Microsoft officials announced in February at the first Lync Conference that Skype integration would occur before June 30, meaning the company delivered a full month ahead of schedule. That said, the Skype-Lync union has been expected for far longer.

[ Considering switching productivity software? See Google Apps To Microsoft Office 365: 10 Lessons. ]

Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype, a gargantuan sum, even for a company of Microsoft's resources. Given the expense, commentators immediately speculated that Skype and Lync could be natural partners.

Aspects of the process might have taken a while to get going, but as of late, Microsoft has been busy capitalizing on its investment. Over the last month, for example, the company has given users in certain countries access to a preview version of a forthcoming, Skype-infused update to Outlook.com.

In an email, a Microsoft representative said the company had "no specific date to share" for future Skype-Lync updates, such as support for video chats. Microsoft had previously suggested that video would be added by mid-2014, though a Wednesday post on the Skype blog says the feature will be the "next priority."

During Cisco's court appearance, meanwhile, attorneys for the networking giant argued that Lync -- which is used by more than 90 of the Fortune Global 100, according to Microsoft -- should never have been allowed under the same roof as Skype. Cisco's lawyers maintain the merger gives Lync an unfair advantagebecause the EU approved the deal without subjecting Microsoft to any concessions -- such as some amount of guaranteed interoperability with Cisco's Telepresence products.

The court will rule in the coming months. Any subsequent appeals will be directed to the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court.

The Cisco case isn't Microsoft's only legal headache related to Skype, but it's arguably the most intriguing. Cisco has taken proactive, if not pre-emptive, steps against Lync, somewhat evocative of Microsoft's recent feud against Google.

In February, the day before the Lync Conference began, Cisco very publicly and directly argued that Microsoft's collaboration tools simply can't compete with Telepresence, especially in today's mobility-oriented, BYOD landscape.

To be sure, Cisco might have a point. Microsoft is still shaping Lync and Skype, after all. They're not mature parts of the Redmond portfolio. But the fact that Cisco has put so much effort into stymying Microsoft makes one thing clear: if Lync isn't yet a big-time contender, it's getting there.

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Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/31/2013 | 4:27:08 AM
re: Microsoft Unites Skype and Lync, Cisco Protests
Not that I'm a huge fan of Microsoft at this point... but maybe Cisco should stop spending money on legal teams and start spending money on developing a product that would compete with or exceed what the perceived Lync/Skype integration will do?

That's how capitalism used to be done, I believe...

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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