When Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, a key question was when the new acquisition would be integrated with the company's existing Lync enterprise communications tool. This week, the technology giant is taking several more steps toward that goal.
At Microsoft's Lync Conference in Las Vegas, which opened Tuesday, the company demonstrated videoconferencing between the two applications -- Lync, the unified communications platform for business, inside the firewall, and Skype, the unified communications platform for consumers, outside the firewall.
There have also been some efforts by Microsoft to develop Skype for small businesses. The Lync team reports to the Skype team, and both are part of the company's Applications and Services division.
In spring of last year, the first stage of integration between Lync and Skype was completed, allowing users to contact those in the other program, as well as conduct IMs or audio calls. At that point, videoconferencing was not possible between the two.
Tuesday's videoconferencing demonstration, however, is apparently just that, and Microsoft has told news media that the demonstrated capability will not be available until later this year.
The two programs do not appear to be on track to be fully merged. File sharing between Skype and Lync, for example, is apparently not on the drawing board.
In a posting Tuesday on The Official Microsoft Blog, Corporate Vice President Gurdeep Singh Pall, who conducted the on-stage videoconferencing demonstration, noted that Lync is now a $1 billion business, and added that it ships "more unified communications voice lines to enterprises than any other technology company in the world." He added that Skype and Lync experiences will be brought "even closer over time to make it easier for people to communicate, both at work and in life."
Pall made the vision a bit clearer in an interview Monday with CNN. He said that "the same tools you use at home, you want to use work," which points to a continued separation but interoperability of the two applications. This is what Microsoft is describing as B2X, which is placing "the focus of business communication on enabling human interactions."
Pall also noted that "unified communications" is essentially an "old-school" model, and that the new model is more about the cloud. The keys, Pall noted in his blog posting, are consistent experiences for work and life, context and application intelligence, access across all devices, and video everywhere around the globe.
The company has said it intends to add more communications modes linking the two programs, and embedding them into as many services and devices as it can. Also being announced this week: the addition of Lync support for tablets running Android 4.0 and above, scheduled for release this summer.
Microsoft's announced plans also include integration between Lync and Cisco/Tandberg video teleconferencing systems in the next version of Lync Server, whose release date was not specified, and support for switched telephone network phone numbers in Lync Online later this year.