The 2014 Lync Conference in Review

February 26, 2014, by Adam Kaiser in Industry News, Video Conferencing

“Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.”
            – Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

There is no denying that Microsoft Lync is experiencing explosive growth as a unified communications solution for organizations large and small. From IM and presence to full enterprise voice and HD video conferencing, Lync provides a total communications solution.

Last week Microsoft held its 2nd Annual Lync Conference in Las Vegas. This conference nearly doubled in size from 2013 when it was held in San Diego. This massive increase in attendance is a strong endorsement of Lync’s growth and presence in the market.

At this year’s conference, newly named Skype and Lync VP Gurdeep Singh Pall took to the stage to deliver this year’s keynote address. From the beginning there was a clear message that Lync and Skype are truly coming together. The presentation began with a look at the growth both Lync and Skype have been experiencing. One particularly amazing statistic was that one third of all global long distance calling occurs via Skype.

Lync has become Microsoft’s fastest growing business unit with yearly revenues now exceeding $1 billion and the business unit has seen 38 consecutive quarters of double digital growth. Additionally, 60% of enterprises have or are deploying Lync. The focus on the conference then shifted to some of the latest product and technology updates. Derek Burney, Corporate of Vice President of Strategic Relations and Solutions for Lync and Skype, took the stage to conduct the demos. He focused on several key areas:

Mobility:
Lync now supports iOS, Android (now both smartphones and tablets), Windows, and Mac OS X. In a matter of moments, Burney created a meeting with every compatible device in one session. Key features now available in Lync mobile include:

  • Content viewing (native for Powerpoint)
  • Invite additional participants from the app
  • Anonymous Join

Microsoft is sending a clear message in that mobility and cross platform support is incredibly important to their strategy.

Interoperability:
As part of the demo, Burney was able to invite a TANDBERG (clearly didn’t want to mention Cisco’s name) video conferencing system right into a Lync session. The connection was seamless and the quality was quite good.

Skype to Lync:
At the 2013 conference, audio and IM between Lync and Skype clients was demoed. Burney brought things up another notch and demoed a video call between Skype and Lync. The message here is that connecting an enterprise platform to a consumer platform creates incredible opportunities for B2C communication. This functionality will be released later this year.

Embedding Video Anywhere
As many other communications vendors have presented, this demo featured a website (in this case for a healthcare network) that allowed the user to have a real-time video conversation right on the site. Most vendors have chosen to go with the open standards WebRTC protocol to achieve embedded video. Microsoft has chosen not to embrace WebRTC and instead has created its own JavaScript APIs to achieve this. It should be interesting to see how this impacts the adoption of WebRTC.

After the technology demo ended, two large scale Lync customers (Herb Keller, VP and CTO of Adventist Healthcare & Dean Leung, CIO of Holland & Knight) were invited on stage to discuss their particular use case. This discussion begins at around 42 minutes in the video and is a fascinating look at how two very different types of organizations have integrated Lync into their business models and workflows.

In closing, Gurdeep Singh Pall discussed Microsoft’s vision of communications for the future. This includes total integration across all platforms with context. Meaning, systems understanding who is involved in meetings and providing context based searching and alerts (see 01:05 in the video). Finally, Microsoft’s goal is to have 1 billion users of their communications platforms in the next ten years. They are calling this next era, Universal Communications.

We live in some amazing times with amazing technology and tools. Microsoft’s goals are ambitious but have the potential to connect people like never before!

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