Microsoft has announced that it will be rebranding its Lync enterprise communication platform as “Skype for Business” when it launches the next version of the software in the first half of 2015. The update from Microsoft will include a “new client experience,” along with a new server release and updates to the service in Office 365.
“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,” the company said on the official Skype blog. “We are bringing together the familiar experience and user love of Skype with the enterprise security, compliance, and control from Lync.”
New Features, Redesigned Interface
The update will consist of a new Skype for Business client, Skype for Business on-premises server, and a Skype for Business online service through an Office 365 subscription. Current clients of Lync Server will be able to upgrade to Skype for Business Server through a software update, according to the company. Office 365 clients, meanwhile, will have their service options updated automatically by Microsoft. Lync is currently included in the most basic versions of the Office 365 government and enterprise service plans.
Among the changes Redmond plans to introduce in the Lync update is the adoption of the familiar Skype icons for calling, adding video, and ending a call. Another feature to be added is the “call monitor” ability from Skype that keeps an active call visible in a small window even when a user moves focus to another application. The process of transferring a call is also being reduced from a three-click process to just one click.
Skype for Business will add video calling and the Skype user directory, making it possible to call any Skype user on any device. Lync has been providing instant messaging and audio calling with Skype users since 2013. Like Lync, Skype for Business will include content sharing capabilities, and will continue to include Lync’s enterprise security and compliance features.
None of the existing Lync features will be removed, and Skype for Business will continue to run on the Lync backbone rather than the Skype backbone, the company said. Despite the rebranding of Lync and the redesigned user interface features, the two services will remain separate, and clients of both will have different usernames and logins for each platform, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion, and has so far kept the communication platform separate from its Lync service by differentiating one as a consumer product and the other as an enterprise product. Nonetheless, the two units did integrate somewhat in 2012 when the Lync team was placed under the management of Skype, combining the two into a single business unit. Microsoft has been consolidating its communications platforms, shutting down the Windows Live Messenger platform in May 2013.
More than 300 million people currently use the Skype platform, and Lync is used by thousands of organizations and enterprises, the company said.