Guest Post:  Tim Banting, Senior Product Manager, Lync

Today Microsoft is turning every communication into a more accessible, collaborative and engaging experience.  Microsoft Lync ushers in the next generation of communications with a complete Enterprise voice solution that allows customers to augment, or completely replace traditional PBX systems and deliver a powerful end-user experience. 

It is a safe, secure and enterprise ready solution that is wowing IT and at the same time delighting end-users through the magic of software.

 So what is different in Microsoft’s approach when compared to other more traditional unified communication vendors?

 In the unified communications space there are two prevailing philosophies.  One is that expensive, disjointed hardware is required to help connect people.  The other, Microsoft’s philosophy, is that the future of business communications relies on the ability of software to truly unify people.  Microsoft is betting on software to make the difference.  To borrow a phrase from our founder, the future of business communications rests on the magic of software, not just on the capabilities of hardware.  Additionally, Customers don't need to get locked into a UC decision because of their choice of network.  This monolithic architectural approach existed over a decade ago with digital PBXes- history does not need to repeat itself with UC solutions today.

 During the last major disruptive trend in the UC industry, the promise of cost reduction through the convergence of “voice, video and integrated data” on a single IP infrastructure was delivered relatively quickly however the promise of “new world applications” had yet to be delivered on.  This presented Microsoft with an opportunity to transform and unify the way we communicate- addressing these omissions with a UC platform for the next generation of businesses.

 English poet, Sir Herbert Read said “Progress is measured by the degree of differentiation within a society” – the same could be said of the communications industry.

 Microsoft starts with the end user in mind and builds a great experience that meets the needs of business users, provides seamless interoperability with the most widely used business productivity software, (SharePoint, Exchange and Office,) and then offers a hardware infrastructure choice and an open platform to support it.

 Lync is designed from the ground up with the remote user scenario in mind; all end-user functions work identically inside and outside the enterprise, (voice, video, conferencing, desktop sharing, instant messaging, unified messaging, email – even end user settings such as call forwarding and speed dials or as we like to call them “contact groups”,) are available wherever users have internet access without any additional hardware, smart-cards or soft tokens to provide VPN access.

 Businesses need to communicate both inside and outside their organization as well- UC does not start and stop behind the company firewall.  With customers, partners and contractors forming part of the extended business, companies need an inclusive solution for connecting with people outside of their networks.  Microsoft provides an easy way to federate voice, video, instant messaging and desktop sharing when connecting with other Lync customers, anytime and anywhere.  In addition to providing easy business to business communication, Microsoft also extends business to consumer communications through Live Messenger to provide voice, video and instant messaging; and federates to AOL, Yahoo! and XMPP services (such as Cisco Jabber or Google talk,) for instant messaging.

 Quite frankly, Unified communications tools should be just that: unified! It is clear that when companies acquire new technologies and mesh them together, instead of building them organically, customers may experience a disjoined and unfamiliar user experience.  The market for UC is developing away from the monolithic architectures previously mentioned in this post and many vendors have a shared commitment to interoperability to fulfill the promise of integrating business communications into a person-centric, simple experience.

 Unlike our competitors, Microsoft provides an extensible and open platform that enables developers and partners to develop customizable solutions for customers. More than 100 application development partners are ready to deliver innovative solutions to the Marketplace and 100’s of system integrators are ready to help customers plan, deploy and manage their Lync communications environment.

 Partners are announcing more than 70 new devices including IP phones, PCs and USB devices optimized for Lync[1]. HP is introducing 9 laptops plus All-in-One PCs with built in audio and video optimized for Lync conferencing, new IP phones from Polycom and Aastra are shipping with Microsoft’s latest software to provide better end user productivity. We consider what the end user experience will be like for the simple phone user- Calendar integration shows you a list of forthcoming appointments, conference calls can be accessed in a single press to join, incoming calls show pictures of the person calling, and contact cards provide information such as out of office notifications.

 There are now more than 60 USB devices available for Lync- providing cost effective alternatives when in the office or working remotely.

 100’s of system integrators- are ready to help customers plan, deploy, integrate and manage their Lync communications environment, while application developer partners are developing an entirely new class of solution that integrate communications deeply within business applications and processes on the Lync platform.

 Lync partners and system integrators deliver a world of options and inspired innovation and we expect Lync based solutions will continue to be developed across a wide spectrum of personal computing devices, browsers and mobile devices.

 Customers and reviewers are responding positively to Microsoft Lync. Customers, like Creative Technology, Georgia Military College, Morgan Keegan and AT Kearney, are already embracing our solutions and expecting significant cost savings and a boost in productivity as a result of rolling out Microsoft Lync to their employees.

 And today is just the beginning for Lync. As part of Office 365, Lync Online will include instant messaging, presence, audio and video conferencing and PC-to-PC voice calling giving IT flexibility and choice throughout deployment.  We expect Lync based solutions will continue to be developed across a wide spectrum of personal computing devices, browsers and mobile devices and we are eager to see further innovation as we continue to partner with application developers and system integrators to bring to customers unique, enhanced and truly unified communications Lync experiences.

 In fact you could say that future looks pretty Lync-redible!

 Lync is available on all PCs and accessible via most major browsers -try it for yourself at www.microsoft.com/lync



[1] Optimized for Lync  means solutions are designed to  deliver a high fidelity user experience when used with Microsoft Lync

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