Unified communications is inherently complicated. Microsoft’s introduction this week of a UC release candidate – the last stop before full release – and a significant rebranding is an attempt to simultaneously simplify things and move forward.
The Microsoft Communications family has been renamed. What was most recently known as Communications Server, Communications Online and Communicator is now Lync. More specifically, the server moves from OCS 2007 R2 to Lync Server 2010, the client transforms from Office Communicator 2007 R2 to Lync 2010, the cloud-based service evolves from Office Communications Online to Lync Online, and the Web client shifts from Office Communicator Web Access to Lync Web App.
The company issued a release candidate that can be downloaded freely. It says Lync is being used by almost 20,000 people within the company and more than 100 enterprises. The final product is expected by the end of the year, according to the post.
VoIP Planet drives home the importance of Lync to Microsoft by citing Gurdeep Singh Pall, the Corporate Vice President of the Unified Communications Group:
In March, Pall also predicted that over the next three years, unified communications technology like Lync will overtake legacy PBX-style voice communications, with over 50 percent of business VoIP calls including more media than simply voice.
That’s high stakes. Forrester analyst Henry Dewing’s take on the big picture — the displacement of the IP PBX with the Lync server – dovetails with Pall’s analysis:
Beyond the name, I believe that the most compelling news is that Microsoft is now getting serious about its Microsoft Lync Server being ready to replace the private branch exchange (PBX).
There is a lot here to watch over the coming months. Last week, I blogged on a post by Gartner’s Nick Jones in which he lamented that UC was a bunch of smoke and mirrors designed to enable big vendors (he named Microsoft and Cisco) to keep selling licenses. The transition to an environment that doesn’t rely on an IP PBX doesn’t invalidate his critique, which is more nuanced than that. It does, however, suggest that Microsoft recognizes that the future will feature more agile and flexible approaches. These, by definition, will enable a wider array of providers and generally open up the landscape.