TMC’s Tom Keating reported the fact that Microsoft OCS will be called Lync going forward and the name is much more conducive as a Skype alternative as asking someone to Lync you sounds much better than asking them to OCS you. Tom and I recently went to Manhattan with a group of analysts and other media to get a demo of the system at Microsoft's Technology center and put it through its paces. We had a chance to see about a dozen or more machines with various endpoints and spent time listening to Jamie Stark the Senior Product Manager walk us through what this new release will do for customers.
The new Lync Server 2010 will be released soon and it has gotten better with age and can do lots of great things like integrate better with Microsoft Office, give you standalone voice – look Ma, no PBX, set up more easily, better federation support with MSN/Windows Live, Yahoo and AOL as well as support for activity feeds like Twitter, skill-based search allowing you to connect with an expert on any topic (with SharePoint integration) and much more.
The Polycom phone attached to my workstation and integrated with Lync sports HD voice. The iPhone could not get a good picture of the screen and I blame it on some sore of anti-Apple force field
Conferencing has gotten better as well – they can be impromptu and single-click scheduling allows people within the network and optionally beyond the firewall to participate. There is also HD video support at a 1270x720 resolution as well as whiteboarding, application and document sharing and the ability to record meetings. You can also switch audio devices on the fly, manage multiple calls, call transfer, flexible call forwarding - call context, allowing you to know why your phone is ringing, workgroup call queuing for call center applications, a survivable branch appliance allowing you to stay up if the WAN link goes down, conversation templates – allowing single-call conferences, rich presence in Office apps, co-authoring – allowing you to more easily work with others using SIP of course, enhanced mobility support and speech recognition.
You can also have a single directory across multiple locations for voicemail and the phone system as well as the ability to “rack it, stack it and virtualize it.”
There has also been a significant effort to simplify things – there are no more @ signs or complexity in Communicator – in fact you can see pictures of others and there is a Quick Contacts feature allowing more rapid access to to others you need to connect with. You can also park calls and dial a 3-digit number to pick it up from another location.
I asked how this new version compares to Cisco Quad and Jamie explained that SharePoint is way ahead of Quad – a very valid point. Cisco isn’t afraid to admit this fact either – its differentiator is simplicity and Microsoft has done a great job merging flexibility with greater simplicity in this new offering which gives easy access to more SharePoint data. In response to my question about how Avaya’s Flare compares – he said, he is glad Avaya has discovered software.
I asked if Windows Phone 7 will have any special Lync connectivity other phone vendors will not enjoy and the answer was a definite no – all phone vendors will be treated equally.
Microsoft is in an incredible position to get the job done right when it comes to connecting communications and collaboration into other applications and they have done an admirable job with the new Lync solution. The holy grail of being able to instantly conference and collaborate via a myriad of applications may actually be here now and I can’t wait to spend more time with Lync to see how it works out of the lab.
A look at Lync Communicator and status updates:
A look at the new Lync options settings: