A Theory About Lync

by Dave Michels

Could the missing Lync be in your future? Perhaps.

Microsoft acquired Yammer yesterday. No news here as the leaks were so accurate. I even opined about it a two weeks ago. But the official announcement did have a noteworthy omission: Lync.

Yammer will become part of the Office Division, but remains under their current CEO David Sacks. Microsoft said:

“Yammer will continue to develop its standalone service and maintain its commitment to simplicity, innovation and cross-platform experiences. Moving forward, Microsoft plans to accelerate Yammer’s adoption alongside complementary offerings from Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics and Skype.”

SharePoint, Check. Office 365, Check. Dynamics, Check. Skype, Check.

While other vendors are racing to integrate social, collaboration, and unified communications – Microsoft hasn’t thought of it – or has it?

So here is my theory about Lync – we won’t have to wait too long because Wave 15 news should be coming forth in July. But as of today, I’m in the dark and free to speculate.

Lync goes away. 

Not the server, but the client. That is my theory and the theory is mine.

I’m not sure why we even have a Lync client. It never made any sense. Unified Communications is a label we apply to many forms of communications. Depending who you talk to it can include voice, video, presence/IM, SMS, mobile, messaging, conferencing, and collaboration. Microsoft currently relies on Outlook to deliver messaging (email and voice mail – sometimes fax), contacts, calendar (which integrates with conferencing), and Microsoft has extended presence/IM throughout Office. That leaves Lync with just a handful of exclusive features namely voice, video, and collaboration.  Of course, the Lync 2010 client alone doesn’t provide this funtionality – both a server (more accurately a collection of servers) and appropriate CALs (choose from 3) are also required.

Hold that thought.

Then comes the elegance and importance of Lync’s single client point of view. A “conversation” can go from IM to voice to video and back without leaving the client. This is very nice assuming those are the only three forms of communication used. For many of us – email is also critical.

Hold that thought.

Lync is an impressive solution, unless you are concerned about mobile productivity. The Lync mobile client is fantastic unless you are interested in voice or video (or email) communications.

Put it all together and why not put it all together. That is, why not combine the functionality of Lync and Outlook into a single client with features largely dependent upon server and CAL infrastructure. Imagine being able to escalate a call from email to IM to voice to video – while also having access to Contacts to determine who to communicate and a calendar to see when to communicate. From one client, you can look up someone in the directory, IM them about a meeting, use calendar to find a time, and send them an invite with a click to dial/collaborate which goes directly into a calendar appointment without leaving Outlook.

Does the Lync client really add any value as a stand alone application?

This allows Microsoft to create an Outlook mobile app that does it all instead of competing with third party iMail clients or having to convince people to install the Lync client separately. One very rich Outlook client would better position Lync servers, along with Exchange, and maybe even SharePoint. On the desktop, there’s a lot more Outlook clients out there already in use than Lync Clients – a new experimental Lync server in the back office becomes that much easier to test and evaluate. Not to mention Microsoft re-introduced Outlook for Mac not that long ago – a Trojan Horse for MS Servers?

Then there’s the coopetition angle too. Nearly every major UC solution out there integrates with Outlook. Some integrate with Lync, but only if you ask really nicely. Competitive vendors delicately embrace Lync as it is a competitor, but open embrace Outlook for Contacts and Unified Messaging. By getting rid of Lync – suddenly every competitor is now embracing the Outlook client – oops.

Outlook would become the communications client – period. Not store/forward communications, not real time communications, but communications.

We shall see, but you heard it here first.