Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Skype, Gurdeep Singh Pall, released the following message to Twitter coinciding with the official blog articles confirming the hunches of many in the industry on how Microsoft would ultimately tie the Lync and Skype products even more closely together.
The articles do not go into much detail at all about exactly what is happening, outside of some semblance of a rebranding but a closer look at some of the statements do point to a few important items.
In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release and updates to the service in Office 365.
This basically means that the next on-premises server, clients, and Office 365 releases of what would be Lync will now simply be renamed, and the Lync name will be apparently be deemphasized. Surely this does not mean that the existing consumer Skype platform would be positioned to businesses, or mean the death of Lync as a platform. For all intents and purposes the two separate products must still exist : the consumer ad-driven solution known as Skype, and the enterprise-grade solution known to all as Lync which will simply be rebranded as Skype for Business.
Many enterprises will continue to run on Lync 2010 and 2013 platforms if they have just upgraded and moving to the next platform may be far off for them, while others will be excited to start evaluating the next release to see if it is a candidate for them to warrant upgrading to.
And speaking of upgrades the following statement seems to validate the rumors that in-place upgrades will be supported in the next server release cycle.
Current Lync Server customers will be able to take advantage of these capabilities simply by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their datacenters. No new hardware is required.
Ultimately this rebranding fits a pattern that the product has had since it was first rolled out as Live Communications Server (LCS) 2003 and then 2005. It was brought into the Office collective by name as Office Communications Server for the next two releases (2007 and 2007 R2), followed by two more release cycles rebranded as Lync 2010 and 2013. So this is not a surprise at all given the history of the product.
Furthermore a redesign of the Windows client has also occurred in the past three release cycles (Office Communicator 2007, Lync 2010, and Lync 2013) so this change also comes as no surprise. A closer look at the Windows client shows that while the design borrows the color scheme and icons from Skype, the layout and function is still most definitely Lync at its core.
On a personal note I have known about this rebranding for quite some time and have already gone through the five stages of loss and grief that the rest of the technical community will undoubtedly be experiencing starting today.
- Denial – “Well that’s a silly idea, so clearly they will come to their senses.”
- Anger – “Stop changing the name already! People just became comfortable with Lync.”
- Bargaining – “ Look, how about using the Skype client with the Lync server, akin to Exchange and Outlook”"?”
- Depression – “Well, forget this. I’m going to stop blogging about the product and join a monastery.”
- Acceptance – “OK, I suppose it’s not the end of the world. There might be some upside here.”
It will be confusing for a bit as the lines are blurred between the consumer and enterprise products, but in the end the user community (and not necessarily IT administrative staff) should benefit the most. Imagine an employee, already comfortable with operating the Skype client on their personal computer and devices, seeing this familiar interface on their corporate workstation and devices, both handheld and in conference rooms? Nearly 5 years ago there was roughly the same initial reaction to the new Lync rebranding of OCS and the product itself clearly won over many fans in the years to come. On the upside at least I won’t have to hear anyone calling it ‘Lynx’ anymore. 🙂