Goodbye Lync, hello Skype for Business: The ramifications for enterprise collaboration
Updated Microsoft is serious about making work seamless. Five months after it was originally announced, Microsoft is officially rebranding Lync as Skype for Business.
The reasoning is simple. “We want to bring together the well-loved, familiar experience of Skype with the enterprise security, compliance and control that businesses expect from Microsoft,” a Skype blog post explains. A technical preview is already available, and the service will be made generally available in April.
Anyone who has a Skype ID can sign up, with a new client, a new server, and an updated service within Office 365 promised. As Skype is baked into Office, the theory from Microsoft’s perspective is to enable greater cross-collaboration between the two.
The majority of software and hardware solutions that are qualified for Lync 2013 will also be compatible with Skype for Business, it was confirmed. Initial partners include AT&T, BT, Dell and Dimension Data among others.
“Our CEO Satya Nadella encouraged companies to embrace the open exchange of information using intelligent, collaborative tools that enable people and organisations to achieve more,” said Giovanni Mezgec, Skype for Business general manager. “Delivering technology that helps people connect – to discuss, share and collaborate – is central to Microsoft’s mission to reinvent productivity.”
But what does this mean in terms of overall strategy? In November harmon.ie released a report arguing the lack of maturity in the enterprise collaboration space; with a continued focus more on personal productivity.
The collaboration vendor’s view
Yaacov Cohen is CEO and co-founder of harmon.ie, which offers SharePoint apps for Outlook. He argues the move is consistent with CEO Nadella’s strategy, positioning Microsoft as the business cloud leader.
He told Enterprise AppsTech: “The strategy’s core is Office 365, and now Skype and its super popular brand will be integrated to the collaboration platform which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer and Office Web Apps.
“This Office 365 strategy includes brand consolidation as once popular brands such as Exchange, SharePoint [and] Lync are out – Office 365 [and] Skype, both with consumer appeal, are in,” he added.
It's an interesting argument; Salesforce, with its Marketing Cloud, is closing down established brands such as ExactTarget and Buddy Media. Cohen also argues the importance of collaborating and communicating outside the corporate network, the strength of cloud storage providers such as Dropbox and Box.
“The integration with Skype brings the ability to collaborate outside the corporate network such as partners, consultants and other services providers,” he said. “This is an increasingly critical characteristic of cloud-based collaboration.”
The analyst’s view
Bob Egan, CEO of advisory firm Sepharim Group, says this move has been a long time coming from Microsoft’s perspective. He notes that while Microsoft has made moves like this in the past, execution has been poor, enabling Citrix, Cisco and “consumer nonsense” like WhatsApp to take share.
“I think Microsoft is way overdue for it [to] take these two large assets and combine them in a way that strategically raises the value of [its] business portfolio,” he told Enterprise AppsTech. “Easy to say, but tough to do.”
The Outlook killer’s view
Unlike harmon.ie, Finland-based startup Collaboration Objects has scant regard for Microsoft’s vision. Collaboration Objects aims to provide an all in one ‘Outlook-killing’ solution encompassing email, calendar and messaging to ensure the biggest problem with existing tools – missing or forgetting important work – is rectified.
CEO Amos Ahola told this publication in January that, given a previous role at manufacturer Wärtsilä, he had the entire Microsoft ecosystem at his fingertips and proclaimed the company would ‘not introduce a game changer any time soon.’
Speaking to Enterprise AppsTech following the Skype for Business rebranding, Ahola described both Lync and Skype as “vanilla” offerings, yet conceded Microsoft’s strategy was correct.
“Microsoft rebranding Lync as Skype means that they do not wish to have separate business and consumer apps for the same purpose, which very much makes sense as they will be most likely packaging it together with Windows OS,” he said.
You can find out more about Skype for Business here.
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