Lync One Year

by Dave Michels

Lync just passed its first year birthday – of course by that I am referring to the name “Lync” – as the product has been evolving for some time. None the less, it has had an extraordinary year. Its market penetration is debated and difficult to measure, but its impact on mind share is significant. The product comes to the market from a very different angle. On NoJitter, I describe some of the nuances to Microsoft’s licensing. It’s complex, but actually very clever. It is packaged first and foremost as a presence engine and that market has little competition. With bundled pricing and no major barriers in presence, Lync deployments hit little resistance. Lync is then positioned for UC consideration as an incumbent technology.

In addition to its birthday, December was an important month as Lync released its first mobile clients. Mobility was a gaping hole for Lync as mobility is potentially the largest driver in enterprise UC right now. It was last March at Enterprise Connect when Microsoft announced mobile clients were coming. The naysayers in the audience were sure Microsoft would only support its own mobile phone, but Microsoft assured their mobile strategy would support “where the users are.” Microsoft even demonstrated an iPhone client. But until weeks ago, nothing. Cisco was not impressed with the long wait or the clients. From the Cisco blog:

Microsoft released a mobile Lync client which:

  • Does not have VOIP calling (everything is a call back service over the mobile network)
  • Does not have video capabilities to or from the device
  • Does not have document sharing capabilities
  • Does not have the ability to dial numbers from the Microsoft cloud-based Lync service

Simply put, what Microsoft released this week is not a mobile UC client at all.  It is at best an IM and presence client with a call back service – pretty much the same functionality as what Windows Mobile 6.5 had several years ago.

These are reasonably legitimate complaints – particularly after such a long wait. I’ve never seen the Cisco mobile client, but if it can do all these things then it is definitely ahead of the pack. The sad truth is the vast majority of mobile clients are weak. I’m astonished how many of them require a call back to initiate a call – my lowly Google Voice doesn’t. Video conferencing is relatively new as most cell phones didn’t have a front facing camera until this year- but again the consumer sector – Apple, Google, Skype offer it. Document sharing, or more importantly PPT shows, are getting traction under the “collaboration” moniker. Document sharing and video is rare.

Mobile clients are generally lacking lots of solutions. Big variances exist in video support, call recording, HD audio, automatic in-call status changes, location awareness routing, RIM MVS integration, speed dialing, single call log, and consistent feature support among IOS, Android, and RIM.

Just about every vendor does have one or more mobile clients, but don’t treat it as a simple check box type of qualifier.  It is an area of wide disparity. It is a difficult area to weigh heavily in an evaluation as things change so quickly. Cisco’s Jabber client is less than a year old. Microsoft Lync had no mobile clients a month ago, etc. If you don’t like the mobile client answer, there is logic to just wait. What is really changing in this area is the iPad2, which itself is still sorta new.