Microsoft announced it's rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business to much fanfare last month. This went beyond a rebranding exercise, and involved joining the Lync infrastructure with Skype. The timing of when this would be completed was unclear, aside from a vague promise of sometime in 2015.
At the end of last week, Microsoft took a major step forward in this project. Users of both platforms can now hold video calls with each other -- provided they have the latest version of Skype for Windows and Lync 2013. But not everyone is happy.
The introduction of the video calls is just the latest of a number of Skype updates and upgrades that Microsoft has announced over the last few months.
At the beginning of October, it released a preview version of Skype 7 for Windows, along with a version for Mac. There was quite a lot of discussion at the time, and not all of it positive, about the fact that chats took up a lot of the whitespace. Microsoft conceded and the new, final version includes a compact view that aims to please everyone.
Microsoft released Skype for Web in mid-November, which enables users to send instant messages and make calls without having to download the Skype app onto their desktop.
With it, users can use Skype for Web from Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox. Safari or whatever browser they work in from Skype.com. If they already have a Skype account they can also access their contacts from the web browser.
But these were consumer level upgrades and don't reflect the direction Microsoft is taking Skype. With the Skype capabilities and global brand, Microsoft hopes to build up the Skype/Lync audience in the business space, which is where the money is.
The result is last month’s announcement about rebranding, followed by the introduction now of video calls between Lync and Skype.
Video: The Missing Lync
Communicating between Lync and Skype is not new -- users of both services have been able to send instant messages and launch audio calls since last year. But video was missing, which made Skype and Lync less attractive as a business medium.
As you can see from the screenshot above sent out with the announcement, the user experience at both ends is pure Skype, and nothing but Skype, with the same options for starting, stopping, re-sizing and maximizing video.
In a blog post about the release BJ Haberkorn, director of product marketing for Lync, wrote that Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to make the whole experience better.
In particular, it includes security upgrades as well as high quality video using the H.264 SVC standard, a video compression standard that enables high-standard video calls.
Extending Skype For Business
All well and good, IF you have the latest version of Skype of Windows and Lync 2013. It seems from the comments attached to the post, quite a lot of people don’t.
All this will be resolved in the coming months, Haberkorn wrote,
We will extend support to the Skype clients on additional platforms, starting with Android and iOS in the coming months. We will add support for SkypeIDs and make it easier to find and add contacts from the worldwide Skype directory when the next version of Lync becomes Skype for Business in the first half of 2015. These planned improvements to Lync Skype connectivity are just one example of how Skype for Business will keep and improve on all of the capabilities of Lync."
In the meantime, Skype continues as usual, while Microsoft promises lots more to come very soon.
Title image by Everett Collection (Shutterstock)