Microsoft Lync alternatives

Microsoft Lync
Microsoft Lync (formerly Microsoft Office Communicator) and Microsoft Lync for Mac are instant messaging clients used with Microsoft Lync Server or Lync Online available with Microsoft Office 365. Basic features include instant messaging, Voice Over IP and Video Conferencing inside the client software.
Here are the latest news about Microsoft Lync:

2014 Microsoft enabled video calling between Skype and Lync users


Last year Microsoft enabled Skype-Lync interoperation with text messaging and audio. Today, the video integration also becomes available. Skype users can now video call contacts on Lync, and vice versa, Microsoft announced this morning. To use the now cross-platform video calling feature, you don’t have to do anything differently from before – you just kick off the call the same way you do today. However, video calling is supported only on an up-to-date Lync 2013 client on Android, iOS or Windows and on Skype for Windows desktop. Skype is now working to expand this integration to more platforms, starting with iOS and Android. The change follows a series of deeper integrations between the two products, the latter of which will be rebranded “Skype for Business” sometime in 2015.



2013 Microsoft connected Lync and Skype


Almost 300 million people around the world use Skype. This is a very large customer base, that's why many companies add skype-address to their contacts in order to offer customers a convenient communication channel. But in large companies using Skype at the workplace - doesn't fit the corporate security policy. Therefore, the integration of Skype with Lync communication server can become a breakthrough for deploying Skype in large companies. And thus Microsoft can get a significant competitive advantage over Cisco, Avaya and other enterprise communication vendors. That's was the main reason why Microsoft acquired Skype for a lot of money.


So now Lync (or Lync Online in Office 365) users can add Skype contacts to their contact list, see their online status, chat and call them. The same actions are available for Skype users.

What is not implemented yet: video calling, conferencing, support for Skype mobile apps. Microsoft promised to add these features later.



2013 Office 365 for Business: new pricing quest from Microsoft


A month after the release of Office 365 home version, Microsoft is launching the updated version of Office 365 for Business. Just like in its previous incarnation, the business version besides the office editors (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, InfoPath) contains the email server Exchange, SharePoint portal and communications system Lync. Plus all sorts of IT-friendly things like Active Directory integration and the Admin Console. And as usual, Microsoft comes up with confusing variety of subscription plans. For example, some editions don't include desktop Office apps and some - include. Some editions can be installed on 5 computers, some - just on one. Some prices are per month, some - per year. And of course, every edition has different limit in the number of users. The price of Office 365 Small Business Premium, which provides the same functionality as Google Apps, is $150/year per user (Google Apps costs $50).

Recall the main functional features of the new version - are the new touch-friendly interface, cloud sync (via SkyDrive Pro), Sharepoint online platform, online Office Store. By July 2013 Microsoft promises bring Yammer and Skype to Office 365.



2011 Microsoft unplugs Skype from Asterisk

Skype vs Asterisk
Today Digium (the developer of the open-source PBX-platform Asterisk) has notified its customers that the sales of its product Skype for Asterisk will be terminated since July 26. Recall, Skype and Digium released this Skype for Asterisk connector back in 2009. It allows companies that use Asterisk-based PBX-systems to integrate them with the Skype network and make / receive Skype-calls using the regular office phones. But the new Skype's owner Microsoft, of course, has no particular desire to support the free Asterisk, that competes with its own product Lync (MS Communications Server). So Microsoft decided not to prolong the contract with Digium. Digium assured that existing Skype for Asterisk users will be able to use their Skype-channels during two more years.

It should be noted that Skype has its own service that allows any SIP-based PBX systems (including the Asterisk) to integrate with the Skype network. It's called Skype Connect (formerly Skype for SIP). And hardly Microsoft will close this service. First, it's sold by Skype, i.e. by Microsoft (and not by Digium) and it requires the subscription fee for the use of Skype-channels (4.95 euros per month). Second, Microsoft is still interested in more companies using the Skype network (even if they use IP-PBX systems other than Lync). Because, if they get linked to Skype, it will be more easy to sell them Lync that will allow to get the maximum features of the Skype network.



2010 Lync 2010 - unified communications become social

Lync 2010
Oh, we didn't rename our products for so long time, thought people in Microsoft and decided to rename MS Office Communications Server to Lync. The new version Lync 2010 with a status "release candidate" is already available for free download and contains a large number of new features as compared to OCS. Most interesting are social features, that we used to see more in social networks rather than in VoIP-solutions. First, the activity feeds that you can subscribe to view contact's status changes. Like in the location-services, Lync can determine the actual contact location by the network point to which he is currently connected. People search allows you to find the right person in the company by name and by the area of expertise. Another interesting feature - context call that allows users to push the conversation subject before making a call, so the contact could better prepair to the conversation.

Lync 2010 Communicator
As for the new communication features, Lync 2010 supports videoconferencing streams with resolution of 720p HD as well as panoramic HD-video.
 
The "simultaneous call" feature allows users to redirect incoming calls to any internal number or several numbers or directly to voicemail. Voicemail in Lync 2010 will be transcribed to text in real time, so that users could read the contents of the incoming voice messages.

Lync 2010
Microsoft will also release web-client Lync Web App and a new mobile client Lync Mobile (it's not clear yet for what platforms).

Commercial version of Lync 2010 is scheduled for the end of this year.