In mid-November, Microsoft announced that it would be rebranding the next version of its unified communications platform as Skype for Business.  This represents the next step in the integration between Skype, one of the most popular consumer communications services (with more than 300 million users) and Lync, one of the leading enterprise communications platforms (sharing Gartner’s Leader Quadrant with Cisco, Avaya and Mitel).

As Microsoft continues down the path of integrating these products, it takes another step toward delivering a cross platform, an easy-to-use, communications and collaboration tool with the enterprise controls required to satisfy corporate IT.

Unfortunately, some of Microsoft’s competitors misinterpreted this rebranding as an exit from the unified communications market.  The fact of the matter is this:  The product, currently known as Lync, is not going anywhere.  What’s happening is the product formerly known as Lync is being rebranded as Skype for Business.

This is actually the fourth name for the product.  What will be Skype for Business is currently Lync, which was formerly Office Communications Server (OCS) and, before that, was known as Live Communications Server (LCS).

Some may argue that before LCS there was Exchange Instant Messaging and Exchange Conferencing Server.  From a functionality perspective, sure, but under the covers those products had a very different architecture and relied on completely different protocols. LCS was a Session Initiation Protocol or SIP-based unified communications platform and all subsequent versions of that product, regardless of the branding, have relied on the same fundamental architecture and protocols.

You can question the merits of the decision to change the name – again.  But let’s be crystal clear that Microsoft is not withdrawing from the unified communications market.

Technology Adoption Program

CDW has been participating in Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for several years.  In 2009, we deployed the product in a production environment for approximately 300 users before the Lync branding was introduced.

We have been running pre-release versions of the next release of this product for the last 12 months. The terms of the TAP program prevent us from discussing the unreleased product to any level of detail.  However, I can confirm that Microsoft is not starting over with Skype for Business.  They are continuing to evolve the product and bring the best of Lync and Skype together into a truly unified communications platform.

Feel free to reach out to me for further discussions or if you have any questions about implementation or design (or comment below).  We have experienced engineering talent and Lync MVPs to help you navigate through the myriad of solutions from our friends at Microsoft.

I have also included some reference articles for other perspectives on the name change.

Skype Blog: Introducing Skype for Business

ZDNet: Microsoft rebrands Lync as ‘Skype for Business’; readies 2015 releases

Network World: Microsoft Rebrands Lync as Skype for Business

PC World: Microsoft kills Lync name in favor of Skype for Business

Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications

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