Microsoft has made good on its promise to deliver a rich unified communications and collaboration platform in Lync 2010, its next-generation Office Communications System unveiled today.
"Lync 2010 is the linchpin to our office communications strategy," said Chris Capossela, senior vice president in Microsoft's Office division. "It is a major part of our broad Office strategy – it completes our family of office products, ushering in a new era of communication."
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates demonstrated the video capabilities of Lync from his office in Seattle, introducing the technology as a game-changer in the enterprise.
"Microsoft is about the magic of software and making everything work together," he said. "For years Office sat by itself – it wasn't connected to anything else and that isolation meant it wasn't an available platform. The software wasn't helping the user in the way that it could. The importance of unified communications today is far stronger than it was when we started down this path."
Lync integrates with Microsoft Office, Sharepoint and Exchange, enabling the information, contact and communications capabilities of all three to work seamlessly. "In short, Lync fits like a glove with these systems," Capossela said.
Perhaps the most important – and most anticipated – feature of Lync 2010 is its calling capabilities. The latest version includes a soft phone and automatic presence and location updates that accommodate e911 features.
"Lync is ready to replace the PBX you have, and it's something we've worked on for a while," Capossela said. "From a communications perspective, we know if our customers are going to invest in the technology they want to make sure they can reach all the endpoints on the system." As such, Lync will work on both PCs and Macs; with different browsers including Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer; and with IP desk phones. Mobile devices will be supported in 2011.
Lync is built on an extensible platform that supports SIP/SIMPLE, XMPP, and voiceXML. "At the core we started building on SIP, with a single set of APIs and tools. This extensibility is the most important differentiator of Lync," Capossela said.
Lync features an intuitive user interface delivered via the PC, a Web browser or a mobile device. "Productivity is about unified communications, enterprise search, collaboration and business intelligence," Capossela said. "The need to put everything in a consistent platform is more important now. This is the most important thing to happen to the office worker since the PC came along," he added.
Lync will be available for download Dec. 1, and will also be available as a cloud offering in Microsoft's Office 365 in 2011.