Monday, October 17, 2011

Lync and Skype: What's Next?

As posted in many places on the net, Microsoft's acquisition of Skype is complete.  There has been a lot of speculation as to what this means for Lync.  I'm going to add my 2-cents worth, just to see if we can get some discussion going.

In the short term, I don't think you're going to see much difference in the way either platform is marketed. Skype already has a huge user base, and people are likely nervous about what MS will do. I'll bet that you will still be able to download Skype and use it as you always did. On the Lync side, I think you will see an option to add Skype as a 3rd party public provider, just like you can already with MSN/Yahoo!/AOL. This might arrive with the rumoured Lync service pack. If it doesn't come with Lync SP1, then we'll probably have to wait until the next release of Lync.

I think you'll see the biggest Skype-Lync integration will come with Lync "15", but not with the on-premises version. The on-premises version will likely keep Skype as an optional public provider, which will allow Lync to integrate with not only Skype, but by extension, other platforms that has Skype connectors. This could be the universal connector that current IP-PBXs can use to connect to Lync and other disparate phone systems. This could help companies save money, by providing a communications channel that doesn't rely on the PSTN.

I predict that you won't see Skype integration at the Lync "15" Online level at all. I think Skype will melt into the background as the base provider for Lync Online's worldwide PSTN telephony integration. The current version of Lync Online does not support PSTN connectivity as of yet. For Microsoft to provide the centralized support for PSTN connectivity it needs to do for a worldwide user base, Skype is an obvious choice. Skype already has a worldwide presence for users to obtain local PSTN phone numbers. If Lync Online can integrate Skype in this manner, then it will vault Microsoft well ahead of the competition to provide corporations worldwide with a secure, easy-to-use and scalable online solution for all their telephony needs.

Companies will be able to sign on with Lync Online and be able to provision users with PSTN numbers almost anywhere in the world. Lync will be a better choice for corporations, because it can be centrally controlled, managed, and users will be able to use their existing corporate credentials. This is a much more palatable solution than Skype, which is geared more towards the end-user or SMB, and isn't controllable by corporate IT.

Microsoft will also benefit financially by siphoning off those corporate users who currently use Skype because there's no suitable corporate alternative. By bringing them into the Lync Online fold (hopefully with as little migration pain as possible), Microsoft will be able to realize a much higher revenue stream per user, compared to Skype.

What do you think? Any other thoughts on the matter? Drop a comment.