Recently Microsoft announced that Microsoft Lync and Skype will become one. Starting in 2015, Lync, their Enterprise phone system and collaboration engine included in Office 365, will be rebranded as Skype for Business.
What many people don’t know is that the idea of Microsoft Lync and Skype joining forces has been cooking for a while. Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in May of 2011 started them down this path several years ago—though the development teams for Microsoft Lync and Skype have been combined for several years — what was telling was how the Lync development team integrated into the Skype team and not vice-versa.
So this move is not completely surprising or unexpected, but I think there are both positive and negative aspects to the decision.
Most computer savvy people know and love Skype. The Skype machine has become the hip and exciting way to communicate.
Skype is Familiar
From the Today show to Jimmy Fallon on late night there are special segments using Skype. Grandparents use Skype to talk to their grandkids across the country, and TV networks regularly show members of the military using Skype to connect with their families during the major holidays.
The Skype interface is universally great on all devices and enjoyable to use, and Skype’s brand recognition will help advance Microsoft’s push into business phone systems.
That being said, as a consumer when I think Skype—I think free. I wonder what the reaction will be as Skype for Business requires licenses and even more expense to make it a business phone system.
My company sells and supports Microsoft Lync. A big part of the communication is that Lync isn’t enterprise voice enabled when I buy it with my Office 365. I think this will be even harder to overcome when Microsoft Lync and Skype become one identity, look, and feel.
The Skype experience is more enjoyable than Lync. I use the Lync client every day and while I love the functionality, the Skype interface is still better. Many of the articles I have read about the upcoming rebranding is that Skype for Business will just be a re-skin of the current Lync client.
But consider this: If this is true, and I am a Skype user who upgrades my company to Skype for business, only to realize that the client is actually a downgrade? I will be disappointed.
Before I use incredible features like the Brady Bunch video calling view and the desktop collaboration sharing with joint whiteboards, I will already be upset about the experience. So if the Skype for Business client doesn’t quickly become as good as Skype currently is, I think users will be unfairly critical of the addition of Skype for Business.
Will Skype for Business be as Great as Skype?
Lync has a painful and somewhat disappointing history. Like many Microsoft products Lync was originally released with significant shortcomings and flaws. Originally named OCS and then renamed Lync 2010 and now 2013, the product is finally very functional and good.
Many organizations have tried Lync and discarded it as non-enterprise grade, which I always find surprising from companies that have overwhelmingly chosen Microsoft for everything else: Microsoft over Novell servers, Word over WordPerfect, Excel over Lotus, the list goes on.
For some reason Voice has not been given this same preferential treatment. That being said, Microsoft is winning a greater and greater mind share in enterprise telephony and collaboration.
When thought of that way, the decision to abandon Microsoft’s negative ‘Lync baggage’ makes sense, when Skype has nothing but a positive reputation and an almost perfect record when it comes to user experience. But I question whether the decision is short-sighted – the Lync name being discarded right at the moment in time that it’s finally achieved market acceptance and approval.
I love Skype. I love Lync. I use both every day and ultimately will embrace the name change and use it the best way I can to increase business and adoption. But as a long time Microsoft Lync advocate I am sad to see Lync fade into the past. Surprisingly enough, I will miss it.