Microsoft pushes ahead with Skype-Lync integration

The company will demonstrate video conference compatibility between the two products at this week's Lync Conference

Microsoft will demonstrate on Tuesday how Lync and Skype users will be able to communicate via video conferencing, the next stage of the integration between its enterprise unified communications server and its consumer IM and IP telephony network.

The new integration will be shown at the Lync Conference, which runs through Thursday in Las Vegas and will be attended by almost 2,000 customers and partners, according to Microsoft.

The company will also announce a Lync app for Android tablets, integration between Lync and Cisco's Tandberg high-end telepresence systems and telephony capabilities for Lync Online, the product's public cloud-hosted version.

In aggregate, the announcements underscore Microsoft's vision to move "from unified to universal communications," said Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of enterprise product marketing for Skype at Microsoft.

This means that Microsoft intends to give its customers a set of interoperable IM, audio communications, video conferencing, online meetings and IP telephony tools for their personal and work lives.

With this approach, Microsoft hopes to get an edge over rivals in the UC market like Cisco, Avaya, IBM, Siemens, Google, Alcatel-Lucent, Mitel and ShoreTel.

In mid-2013, Microsoft delivered the first phase of the Lync-Skype integration, making it possible for Lync and Skype users to contact each other, engage in IM sessions and communicate via audio calls. Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011 for $8.5 billion, is used by about 300 million people worldwide, while Lync is used by more than 90 percent of the Fortune 100, according to the company.

The video conferencing compatibility, which is now in early beta testing, "will enable new cool scenarios," he said. For example, a company whose call center and customer support staffers use Lync could communicate with customers using Skype using video.

Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to start beta testing the integration with the Cisco Tandberg telepresence systems soon after this week's conference ends, he said, adding that Microsoft is doing the work using open standards and available Cisco APIs.

The Lync app for Android tablets is due this summer. There are already Lync apps for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, Mac OS computers and Windows 8.

Finally, it's not clear when Microsoft expects to deliver the native IP telephony capability for Lync Online, a much-requested feature that Lync Server hosted on-premises or in private clouds already has.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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More about: Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Google, IBM, IDG, Lucent, Microsoft, Mitel, Siemens, Skype
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