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The Missing Lync

As we all know, Microsoft’s “Wave 15” of Office products is now officially in public beta release.  While we’ve been paying a great deal of attention to SharePoint, my mind has lately been wandering back to a different side of this product family—Lync Server.

We know that Lync 2013 is out there, and many of us are playing with it already.  (Looks pretty slick, by the way.)  Yet in the wake of Microsoft’s Yammer acquisition, I keep coming back to the same thing I’ve been wondering since they plucked Skype off the market:

How will Lync and Skype coexist?

I’m thinking about this exactly when I pore back over the commentary in the immediate aftermath of the Yammer move.  It came from both sides, mind—a discussion of where Yammer fits in the future Office stack.  We see everything detailed—including Skype—everything but Lync.

From Yammer:

 “Over time, you’ll see more and more connections to SharePoint, Office365, Dynamics and Skype. Yammer’s expertise … will not only continue to power our stand-alone service, but also anchor the communication and collaboration experiences in Office 365.”

                              –David Sacks, Yammer CEO, in an email to Yammer subscribers dated 6/28/2012

From Microsoft:

“I see opportunity for exciting new scenarios by adding Yammer’s stand-alone service alongside and integrated into our collaboration offerings with SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Skype.”

                              –Kurt Delbene, President Microsoft Office Division, June 25 2012

Do you see what I see?  That’s right, there is absolutely no mention of Lync Server in the future landscape.  You might think we’d see it in this slick metro-style infographic released by Microsoft in conjunction with the acquisition, but it’s not mentioned there either.

This has me feeling distinctly speculative.  Perhaps it’s just the fanboy in me—you know, the part of me that’s so used to scanning announcements for what wasn’t said as much as what was, for reading between the lines—but really, what if there’s substance to the big, empty, Lync-shaped space in these announcements?  What if there is meaning here?

And there just might be, because taken alone, sure, you could forgive Mr. Sacks for a one-time omission.  But when Mr. Delbene does the same thing?  And the sleekly-styled PR infographic corroborates it?

Well, that’s when the paranoia—er, speculation engines—really ought to kick into high gear.  So let’s pretend for just a moment that there really is something of significance in the multiple omissions I’m noticing.

Logically, if those omissions are at all meaningful, then that confluence of events has to signify either one of two things:

1)      Yammer will not connect to Lync Server in any worthwhile fashion in the near future.

OR

2)      The “Lync Server” branding is going away.

Here’s what I’m thinking.  In scenario #1, Yammer functionality remains entirely in the cloud, and relies on what’s currently baked into Skype to provide presence, real-time collaboration and IP telephony for Office 365 environments.  Two things smell funny about this—we’ve already been told to eventually expect Yammer integration in on-premise SharePoint, and we already have Lync functionality online in Office 365.

Scenario #2, meanwhile, smells a little better.  We know the actual technology of Lync Server isn’t going anywhere.  It’s seriously good stuff, probably the best solution out there, and Microsoft knows they’re sitting on a gold mine of PBX replacement opportunities in enterprises around the world.  But the branding?  Keep in mind, this is the exact same product that two years ago was still being touted by the less-than-inspiring name of “Office Communication Server 2007 R2”.

Try saying that ten times fast.  Yeah, I thought as much.  So the name “Lync Server” is still relatively new, and it hasn’t yet fired the imagination or gained the ubiquity that big brother SharePoint has, let alone Office, the granddaddy of them all.

Skype, meanwhile—everybody’s heard of that.  And most everything they’ve heard is good.  Why not pull the Lync functionality into something like “Skype Enterprise” and trade on the name recognition going forward?

Traditionally, Microsoft has pulled acquired products into their existing family tree and subsumed their unique identities into what already existed.  Groove and FAST are two obvious, Office-family examples.  But Groove and FAST didn’t boast nearly the name recognition that a consumer-driven product like Skype had.  In fact, when they were acquired, their brands might have been stronger than Lync Server’s is now.

Of course, this is all idle speculation, and from an Office and SharePoint guy at that.  Unified Communications isn’t exactly my first calling card.  But remember, neither David Sacks nor Kurt Delbene mentioned Lync.  It wasn’t called out anywhere in the pretty Metro infographic.

Isn’t that something worth wondering about…? Just a little bit?

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