Microsoft exec: Lync-Skype integration a 'compelling opportunity'

Making the products interoperable will let Lync enterprise users connect with consumer Skype users

Microsoft is looking at creating a bridge between Lync, its enterprise IM, voice and video communications product, and Skype as part of its broader initiative to extend the Office platform, a company executive said on Wednesday.

Microsoft, which closed its US$8.5 billion acquisition of Skype in October of last year, views the massively popular IM, Internet telephony and video chat consumer service in part as a vehicle for connecting enterprise Lync users with consumers, according to Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investor relations.

"We think [Lync] is a big opportunity. Part of the reason why we love the Skype acquisition is because when you think about the integration between Skype and Lync, between the enterprise and the consumer, it ends up being a pretty interesting opportunity as we go forward there," he said at the Stifel Nicolaus Technology & Telecom Conference.

Koefoed, whose appearance at the conference was webcast, acknowledged that Microsoft hasn't spent a lot of time yet talking about its road map for Skype, but made it clear that integrating it with Lync is in the works.

"Enabling an enterprise to talk to a consumer via the Lync-Skype integration would be something you'd think we'd be looking at, for sure," said Koefoed, who answered questions from a financial analyst and from audience members.

Microsoft offers an on-premise version of Lync that has both a server and a client component, as well as a cloud-based version called Lync Online that has a subset of the functionality and is available as part of the Office 365 cloud collaboration and communication suite.

Asked for comment about Lync and Skype, a Microsoft representative said via email: "Lync and Skype are not integrated today. So while we have nothing formal to announce today regarding Lync and Skype, we're incredibly excited about the opportunities to extend the value of Skype to other Microsoft products and services."

Another Microsoft official made a reference recently to plans to broaden the integration between Lync Online and consumer IM networks. At ITExpo in Miami last week, David Grider, a Microsoft Lync technology specialist, said that Microsoft plans to make Lync Online interoperable with non-Microsoft IM networks. Lync Online is currently integrated with Microsoft's consumer IM service Windows Live Messenger, but not with others like Yahoo Messenger.

Lync Server 2010, however, does feature IM and presence federation with XMPP-based networks like Jabber and Google Talk and with other consumer networks such as Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

When asked to name Microsoft products he is particularly bullish about, Koefoed mentioned at the top of his list Office 365, which Microsoft announced in late 2010 and began selling in June of last year as a competitor to Google Apps and other cloud-based communication and collaboration suites.

"I'm super excited about Office 365," he said, adding that the suite has more than 100,000 paying customer organizations and is enjoying very good momentum in the market. He said Microsoft will provide more details soon about Office 365 adoption and sales.

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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