From Lync to Skype for Business

(US) More than three years after acquiring Skype, Microsoft announced in November 2014 that they rebranded Lync corporate communications platform as "Skype for Business". The name change will become official in the first half of 2015, when Microsoft releases the next versions of Lync's clients and on-premises server software as Skype for Business. The upcoming Skype for Business client on Windows will look like a slightly-tweaked version of the current Lync client.

Although the two will continue to focus on different pools of users, Skype for Business will include some elements of the consumer-Skype user interface (UI) and expand the current Lync-Skype interoper-ability. Skype for Business customers will be able to reach Skype users not only for instant messaging chats and audio call, but also for video calls as well, Microsoft said.

Lync is part of all but the most basic enterprise and government Office 365 plans, and Skype for Business will presum-ably be a direct replacement. In the case that customers choose to access Skype for Business via Office 365 rather than the Skype for Business Server, Microsoft said, they will handle all the updates and no new hardware will be required.

Microsoft said that there are more than 300 million people currently using Skype to message, call and share content with other each other.

Why does this matter? As enterprise and personal lives converged, it made less sense for Microsoft to develop and support two competing products. There don't seem to be any casualties of the merge, as the software giant is already the market leader in communications, no other company can connect consumers or business users like Microsoft can.

However, as Phil Edholm (PKE Consulting) commented: “most users have come to understand the difference between a consumer service and a business service. The two carry distinctively different value propositions, including expectations of quality, features, privacy, and, of course, pricing and cost. Clearly, many of us don't want to mix our private and business lives -- that's why we have both a Facebook and a LinkedIn account, one cellphone for personal use and another for work, and separate email addresses. We value keeping our lives separate and using different tools.

Now Microsoft is essentially positioning a business solution as a "subset" of a consumer offer and, in creating a single brand name for both markets, but may very well lose focus. If positioned as the same Skype offer but for businesses and with extensions or some other differentiation, the question is whether enterprises will want to associate with a consumer brand in this way.”

This leads one to wonder what change will this re-branding bring to the battle for enterprise UC buying decisions?

What sort of opportunities and challenges does this merge bring to the UC software, hardware developers? For an example, will Skype for Business have a new set of quality standards for headset and speaker phone products, just like the “Optimized for Lync” certification in the past to shut new players from the big boys' circle?

Surely, it is worth keeping an eye on these questions as the Skype for Business debuts.

The following is a video posted on Youtube by Skype for Business explaining the details.

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