The long collision course between Microsoft Lync and Skype will end next year in a fiery crash, with Lync perishing in the flames. Like a phoenix, however, Skype will emerge--reborn as Skype for Business.
Giovanni Mezgec, the general manager of product marketing for Skype, said that in the first half of 2015 Microsoft would release a new version of what it calls Skype for Business, complete with a new server option. At that time, Microsoft will phase out the Skype name, he confirmed.
Since 2013, customers have wondered why Microsoft kept both Skype and Lync around, since the overlap between the two products was so great. In May 2013, Microsoft linked Lync and Skype, meaning that the two platforms could talk to one another. Earlier this year, Microsoft allowed both platforms to make exchange video calls, and executives hinted then that the two platforms would eventually converge.
The idea, Mezgec said, was to take all the usability of Lync and combine it with the simplicity of Skype. Screenshots released by Microsoft show Skype for Business using the same Skype interface, able to connect to a list of Skype or Lync contacts. Skype for Business will also keep the popover window that shows the details of a call if a user moves to another application.
"We have learned tons [with Lync]," Mezgec said. "We're taking that and putting it all that into Skype for Business."
While the transition will take place in the first half of 2015, Mezgec said it was still too early to talk about how it will take place. Lync is part of all but the most basic enterprise and government Office 365 plans, and Skype for Business will presumably be a direct replacement. In the case that customers choose to access Skype for Business via Office 365 rather than the Skype for Business Server, Microsoft said, Microsoft will handle all the updates and no new hardware will be required.
Microsoft said that more than 300 million people currently use Skype to message, call and share content with other users.
Why this matters: As enterprise and personal lives converged, it made less and less sense to develop and support two essentially competing products. At this point, there don't seem to be any casualties of the transition, but it will be worth keeping an eye on things as the Skype for Business debuts next year.