Office 365's Lync Online to gain interop with consumer IM networks

The capability 'is on the road map,' according to a Microsoft official

Lync Online, the instant messaging, online meeting and PC-to-PC voice and video communications tool in Office 365, will gain interoperability with non-Microsoft IM networks.

Lync Online, currently integrated with Microsoft's consumer IM service Windows Live, will later on also let its users communicate with people on Yahoo Messenger and other IM networks, David Grider, a Microsoft Lync technology specialist, said at ITExpo in Miami this week.

"Do we have future plans to provide integration into the other IM providers out there? The answer is yes," Grider said, in response to a question during a presentation he gave at the conference about Office 365.

Grider didn't provide details on when Lync Online will gain this capability, other than to say that "it is on the road map."

Lync Online already provides IM, presence and audio/video federation with Windows Live Messenger, but it lags its on-premise cousin Lync Server 2010, which also features IM and presence federation with XMPP-based networks like Jabber and Google Talk and with other consumer networks from the likes of Yahoo and AOL. Lync Server 2010 also features federation with IBM Lotus' enterprise IM Sametime.

Until Microsoft delivers this functionality in Lync Online, Office 365 resellers and integrators need to be very clear with customers about what Lync Online can and can't do with regards to other IM networks, he said.

"When you're talking to your customers, if integration from their Lync environment out to the public IM world -- Yahoo, whatever it might be -- is a requirement, that capability is available with our on-premise Lync solution today," he said.

In fact, there is a considerable number of features available in Lync Server 2010 that Lync Online doesn't have, as reflected by this side-by-side comparison list published by Microsoft.

The integration with other IM networks is likely an important one for Office 365 users, because it will provide a broader capability to communicate with those customers and partners who use non-Microsoft IM services.

Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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