Microsoft has rolled out the first phase of integrating Lync and Skype. Merging the two together makes both services better, but an even better solution would be to eliminate one of them altogether.
In a blog post announcing the update, Microsoft explains that Skype contacts can now be added to Lync, and Lync users can be added to Skype. The current integration allows voice calls and instant messaging between the two services, but video calling has not been integrated yet.
Lync integration with Skype is available for Lync 2010 and Lync 2013, but it must be enabled. The IT admin can configure Lync-Skype connectivity on the Lync server, or within the Lync admin center in the Office 365 portal.
Skype users need to be using a current version of the Skype client software, and they must log in using a Microsoft account to take advantage of the Lync integration. If you have a login for SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Windows Phone, or Outlook.com, then you already have a Microsoft account you can use with Skype.
With the two services merged, businesses that rely on Lync can now communicate more easily with customers and partners around the world who use Skype. The integration provides two-way presence information, so both Lync and Skype users will be able to see who is online and available for communication.
Don’t integrate Lync, kill it
It’s a step in the right direction, but Microsoft still has some work to do to streamline its messaging services. I noted in my recent 30 Days with Surface Pro series that there’s overlap between Lync and Skype functionality, and the Windows 8 Messaging app is almost useless.
Microsoft needs to consolidate its messaging into a single platform rather than forcing users to choose. Right now on my Windows 8 tablet I have the default Windows 8 Messaging app, a Skype app, and a Lync app. I also have Lync 2013 and Skype for Windows on my desktop. On my iPhone and iPad I have both a Skype and a Lync app. There are simply too many redundant options.
The logical choice is Skype. Lync is the rebranded name for Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), and it’s still relatively new. It’s also obscure compared to the global recognition of Skype. Skype is synonymous with online voice and video calls to the point that it has become a verb. You can “Skype” someone, but nobody “Lyncs” people. Just as there is a consumer version of SkyDrive, and a business-oriented SkyDrive Pro that links with SharePoint and provides greater control for IT admins, Microsoft should offer Skype, and change Lync to Skype Pro.
To complete the streamlining process, Microsoft should then eliminate the Messaging app in Windows 8, and make Skype the default app for communications in Windows 8. One app that provides unified voice, video, and instant messaging without jumping through hoops.