Microsoft is accommodating Cisco conferencing systems and Android tablets to help make Microsoft Lync and Skype communications platforms able to connect any customers by voice, video, messaging and conferencing regardless of what device they use.
Microsoft's making nice with the competition is part of a larger vision the company is calling universal communications to make the distinction that customers will be able to use these apps from any platform phone, PC, tablet, even Xbox for both personal and business purposes, says Gurdeep Singh Pall, vice president of information platform and experience.
The benefits for business include reaching partners and customers from whatever services they choose using the devices they choose. For consumers, it means the Skype client with 300 million users - can be used to connect to business conferences as well.
This universal communications is a work in progress, says Pall, speaking during the keynote of Microsoft's Lync 2014 conference today. The available versions of Microsoft's two communications platforms Lync and Skype don't support each other for video calls, although that is being demonstrated today at the conference.
Singh says that once the vision is fleshed out, businesses can easily connect with external business contacts the same way they do among their fellow workers.
He described the support for Cisco gear as native interoperability between Lync and legacy room systems from Cisco Tandberg. That means those systems can participate in Lync calls and meetings without having to rip and replace existing conferencing gear.
Lync already supports Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Mac as well as Windows. Skype supports these platforms, too, plus Xbox One and some smart TVs.
While Lync and Skype share presence information, audio calling and messaging since last year, supporting all that was initially complicated. At the time they were announced, the company said video interoperability would come later.
In making the keynote at the Lync 2014 conference, Pall is making his first appearance as the company's information chief after shepherding Windows Messenger to become Lync and later with Skype to plan how it would be integrated with Lync.
He says Lync is a billion-dollar business for Microsoft and that its revenues have doubled every quarter for the past five years. He must be including Lync's predecessor Office Communicator since Lync didn't become available until 2010.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.