A guest post from Brennon Kwok, Polycom Asia Pacific’s regional UC Solution Architect for Microsoft and recognised by Microsoft as a Lync MVP:


Brennon Kwok - Copy.jpgJust a few days ago on November 11, Microsoft set the IT industry abuzz with the announcement that Microsoft Lync will be rebranded as Skype for Business (#Skype4B on social channels). While speculation around the merger of the two products has been around since Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion back in 2011, now Microsoft has made it official. As mentioned in the Skype Blog article, 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. So “Lync Server 2015” will likely be released as “Skype for Business Server 2015”.


Skype.pngThere’s no question about the ubiquity of Skype – with over 300 million users worldwide and processing a call volume of 2 billion minutes a day, that’s a massive amount of airtime indeed. By bringing together Lync and Skype users, we can bridge businesses and consumers together and this opens up tremendous opportunities in the market place. Skype for Business, will enable complete Lync-Skype integration where users can connect via presence, instant messaging, audio calls and HD video calls. This will certainly enhance the ability of organisations to reach hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business in a more personal and engaging manner. As can be seen from the screenshot, the new Skype for Business client has a redesigned user interface based on the familiar consumer Skype product, adopting the latter’s colour scheme, icons and call-flow. Of course, organisations using Lync today can continue to do so until such time when they are ready to update to new Skype for Business.


What does this mean for Partners?


While the full details have not yet been released, there are two main conclusions about the new Skype for Business that can be deciphered from the announcement:


1. From the statement that “Skype for Business keeps and improves on all of the capabilities of Lync, including content sharing and telephony”, we can say that the underlying technology powering Skype for Business is still Lync Server 2015. This means that existing Lync 2013 environments that make the move to Skype for Business will not change significantly from a server technology standpoint. Therefore it’s safe to conclude that the majority of partner solutions will work the same way they do today, without any changes.


2. The announcement also mentions that “Current Lync Server customers will be able to take advantage of these capabilities simply by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their datacenters. No new hardware is required”. This is good news for many Lync customers since there’s an “in-place” upgrade of the existing Lync servers as opposed to ‘side-by-side’ migrations that were required with previous major releases of Lync. This also reinforces the message that the underlying technology is still based on Lync, and that existing investments in third party Lync-qualified products and solutions will be protected. This is also important given the huge partner ecosystem that Lync has built up over the years and solutions from technology partners such as Polycom will continue to work seamlessly with the new server. What’s important for Lync customers now is that they continue to invest only in partner solutions that have been officially qualified by Microsoft for Lync.


Polycom is excited about the Skype for Business announcement, and the relationship between Polycom and Microsoft has never been better. As a strategic partner, Polycom has and will continue to work closely together with Microsoft to bring the best UC solutions for our customers.


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