• 02/19/2014
    9:06 AM
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Microsoft Brings Lync, Skype Closer Together

Microsoft adds video chat integration to Lync and Skype, touts emerging era of universal communications.

another kind of cross-platform interoperability.

Because Microsoft will soon allow Lync to connect to Tandberg systems, many customers "don't have to choose," Mezgec said. "They can go with Lync, and go with an old system they still need to amortize."

Mezgec also said Lync and Skype represent Microsoft's ambition to spread its services across users' professional and personal lives. This appeal toward both consumers and enterprises users is a key (and in the case of devices such as the Surface tablets, controversial) aspect of the "One Microsoft" game plan.

In the context of the UC market, the approach appears to be paying off. Last year, Microsoft began integrating Lync with Skype, which the company bought in 2011 for $8.5 billion. The first wave of integrations enabled Lync and Skype users to contact one another, send instant messages and conduct audio calls. Video support wasn't included, but UC powerhouse Cisco was still evidently concerned by Microsoft's progress, as it argued before a European Union court that Microsoft's acquisition of Skype constituted a monopoly.

With Tuesday's announcement that video support is now in beta, Lync customers will soon have even more ways to communicate with 300 million worldwide Skype users-- including those who haven't purchased any Lync products. The company also demonstrated ways Bing and Lync can be integrated into websites for contextually aware chat functions.

"We have an opportunity with Skype to bring consumer and enterprise together," Mezgec said, noting that Skype and Lync now share a single engineering team. With people carrying mobile devices all the time, "there is not a clear separation between work and home," he said. "We want to provide experiences that are consistent and integrated for people anywhere they are."

Pall closed his keynote with a nod to the next few years, stating, in another echo of "One Microsoft" talking points, that machine learning and predictive technologies will become bigger parts of the communication and collaboration landscape. He said the company is currently experimenting with a technology that can predict who a user will call within the next five minutes, and that in the next decade, the accrual of more and more contextual data will allow for even deeper insights.

In a point that somewhat evoked his competitors at Cisco, Pall said video will be a major part of Microsoft's push. "People connect better with video," he stated, adding that Microsoft "has to enable video across everybody. Just as you can reach anybody with email, you be able to reach anybody with video."

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