Skype and Lync are getting closer. On Wednesday, Microsoft said it had completed the initial stage of integration for Lync enterprise communications and the Skype consumer IM/telephony service.
Since it acquired Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion, Microsoft has contended that the two products would work as complementary services, connected but primarily focused on their specific markets. Last year, it laid out a road map for the integration, which included completion of this first phase by June. As a result of the first phase, users of either product can IM or voice-call the other.
Users can employ either installed versions of Lync 2010 or Lync 2013, or Lync as part of the cloud-based Office 365 suite, while Skype users need to have the latest Windows or Mac version of that application, as well as a Microsoft account. Lync currently has an enterprise user base of 5 million users, and Skype has 300 million.
'Living Room to Board Room'
The integration is part of what Microsoft calls "connecting the living room to the board room." While Skype was originally, and is currently, primarily a consumer-facing product, Microsoft has also developed a version called Skype for Business.
The main use cases for the Lync-Skype integration are for users, such as in businesses, who primarily employ one of the products but want to speak to users on the other. Lync is in use by more than 90 of the Fortune Global 100, although Skype has many of the same features and is widely used by small businesses. Lync offers functions similar to Skype's -- instant messaging, video conferencing and Net-based phone calls -- but with the management oversight controls that IT requires.
The lack of interoperability has become a hindrance because voice and IM networks do not universally support compatible standards, such as Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol or XMPP. Skype does not, for instance, nor does Google's Hangouts. Lync Server has some interoperability, but the hosted Lync does not.
Video Calling Next
Microsoft said that video calling is the next priority on the integration road map. Last month, Skype integration with Outlook.com began rolling out. In February, when the plans for Lync-Skype integration were laid out, Skype division President Tony Bates said the interoperability was enabling what he called "B2X," which "places the focus of business communication on enabling human interactions."
The Lync team is now part of the Skype division. Bates had been the CEO of Skype before the acquisition.
When Microsoft bought Skype, many industry observers wondered if the company was throwing its money away. Now, the Skype division is approaching the sales revenue level of Microsoft's SharePoint unit. In the corporate market, Microsoft is competing with Cisco for Net-based communications and telephony, which is expected to be a market worth nearly $15 billion within three years.