When Microsoft paid $8.5 billion in cash for Skype in 2011, it left some scratching their heads where the product would fit in the Microsoft ecosystem. And while Microsoft has since integrated the software into a number of its products, we now have a better sense of its future. As of next year, the Lync name will disappear and be replaced by Skype for Business.
This is not just a rebranding exercise. It involves joining together the Lync infrastructure with Skype, which includes the ability to use on-premises servers, optional integration with external communications networks and the use of the Skype interface on top of Lync.
Making The Best Of Skype
This is not the first time a large IT company has bought something that it wasn’t really sure what to do with it. However, it can all come right on the night as Autonomy has shown for HP. OK, at just over $10 billion, HP paid what appears to be far too much for the company and duly got slapped by shareholders and markets alike.
But look at it now. HP CEO Meg Whitman believes the purchase will be core to HP’s revival. Autonomy's software lies at the heart of the new Software Division and the company is pumping out releases built on the Autonomy IDOL server like there’s no tomorrow.
It looks like Microsoft is doing the same with Skype. Bought in one of the largest deals of 2011, the purchase didn't make a lot of sense given that Microsoft had already started to develop its Lync communication tools. The two -- Lync and Skype -- were thought to be too similar to merit the price tag.
The deal, which was Microsoft’s largest ever at the time, gave it a new tool that could be added to its Windows Phone, as well as social interaction features that it then lacked in the face of tough competition from Facebook, Apple and Google.
Skype also offered an enterprise application for communications that did not involve the enterprise software and expense of something like Lync. But $8.5 billion? You gotta be kidding.
In 2013 Microsoft united Skype with the Lync messaging client, although it remained separate, with promises of integration at some point down the road.
Skype For Business
We are now at that point down the road, but no one expected Skype to push Lync aside. The Lync product will not literally disappear, just the name, as Skype has won the PR hearts and minds of enterprise users. Everyone knows Skype -- not everyone knows Lync. Something had to give and Microsoft has decided that it will be the brand name.
Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president for Skype wrote in the blog post announcing the changes:
Skype is used by more than 300 million people for messaging, calling and sharing. It lets people and groups connect in more spontaneous ways across multiple platforms to have fun and get things done. From desktop, to mobile to TV -- it’s for communicating throughout the day, every day. Skype is a universal symbol of togetherness."
And there arises that theme again: Microsoft’s recently defined "One" strategy that is so important to CEO Satya Nadella. But what about Lync? Pall again:
In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release and updates to the service in Office 365. We believe that Skype for Business will again transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business."
From the screenshots provide on the Office blog outlining the changes, Skype for Business looks a lot like the current Skype interface. It will enable users to connect to either Skype or Lync contacts using regular or video calling.
Users will be able to access the new capacities by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their data centers. No new hardware is needed. Office 365 users don’t have to do anything, provided their payment plan covers it.
It’s an interesting move and one that should simplify the clash between Skype and Lync -- at least on paper. Where consumer-level Skype falls in this change has not yet been revealed.