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Microsoft to start connecting Skype and Lync by June 2013

Microsoft's mission to connect its consumer and business communications services is running later than many expected, according to the latest Lync road map.

Lync is Microsoft's unified communications platform for business users. Screenshot/Microsoft
Microsoft provided an updated road map for its Lync unified-communications platform today, the opening day of the company's first Lync Conference in San Diego.

The biggest piece of news is that Lync-Skype connectivity/federation is coming later than many expected. The first piece of that connectivity --- sharing of presence, instant messaging, and voice across the two services -- will be available to all Lync users as of June 2013. Video connectivity between Skype and Lync isn't coming until sometime in the next 18 months, executives confirmed today.

Customers who were testing Microsoft's Lync 2013 last year noted that Skype federation was one of the features of Lync 2013. Microsoft also confirmed Skype federation was designed to be part of the Lync 2013 release. But when Lync Server 2013 was released in October 2012, along with the rest of the new Office client/server products, Skype federation seemingly wasn't part of the final product, after all.

Lync is Microsoft's unified communications platform for business users. It includes corporate IM, VoIP, and conferencing capabilities. Skype is Micrsosoft's unified communications platform for consumers. As of three months ago, Microsoft moved the Lync team under the Skype team, so that Lync reports to Tony Bates, the president of Skype. (That said, Lync will continue to report its financial results as part of the Microsoft Business Division, not the Entertainment & Devices unit, which is where the Skype division reports.)

Microsoft executives also unveiled as part of today's updated Lync road map:

  • Lync 2013 mobile apps for Windows Phone and iOS will be available in early March, with Android coming about a month later. The new versions of these apps all get VoIP and video over IP. iPad users also get the ability to view shared desktop and application content in a Lync meeting.
  • The next version of Lync Server is coming in the second quarter of 2014. That's about 18 months after the Lync Server 2013 product was released to manufacturing -- instead of two to three years later, as has been the cadence for new Office Server deliveries.
  • Lync Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of Lync Server, is on a quarterly update schedule. This is the same schedule that Office 365 and its other elements -- Exchange Online and SharePoint Online -- currently follow. So no change there. The team hasn't yet decided how often it will provide feature updates to Lync on-premises, executives said, noting that on-premises users don't necessarily want the latest updates more often than annually, at best.
  • Enterprise voice support for Lync Online is on the list of features due sometime in the next 18 months. (Microsoft acknowledged back in 2011 that enterprise voice was coming for Lync Online but has declined to provide a date until now.)
  • Structured meeting support for Lync Online and Lync Server also are on the list of functionality coming sometime in the next 18 months. This will enable those still using Live Meeting to move over to Lync, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also announced at the Lync Conference that a handful of the company's hardware partners are embedding Lync into their next-generation conferencing systems. These new integrated devices will be called "Lync room system" products. Partners who announced initial support include Crestron, Lifesize, Polycom, and SMART.

Microsoft said 90 out of the Fortune 100 companies are Lync customers. About 90 percent of Lync deployments are on-premises, not in the cloud, the company said.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline "Microsoft to begin connecting Skype and Lync by June 2013."