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Microsoft links Skype to Lync

Now that's unified communications

Microsoft has connected its consumer voice over IP tool Skype to its business grade unified communications tool Lync.

The upshot of the move is that Skype users can now call anyone with a Lync account, after the usual to-ing and fro-ing with invitations.

As most Lync users work inside a businesses big enough to either run a Lync server of a cloudified version of the product, that means the unwashed masses running Skype can now call businesses for free. Or as Microsoft nauseatingly puts it “we think it’s important to re-humanize technology so that consumers, professionals and decision-makers can interact with technology how and when they want – from the living room to the boardroom.”

Lync has a few million users so it may not seem like a big deal for Skypers to be able to give them a call. Telcos doubtless see it differently as yet another over-the-top service comes along to erode their revenues. Becoming a channel for Office 365 might be the only way for them to claw back some cash.

Other groups that may have a strong reaction to the link are Web marketing types and call centres.

The former have long lamented the fact that when shoppers go online they often abandon a purchase for lack of information about a product. A technique called “click to call” has been advanced as a fix to that issue, as it allows users to click a button on a web page to start a conversation with a customer service operative.

That's not worked well, because proprietary systems have either required download of a client or relied on a Skype-to-Skype connection. That's not hard to do, but is hard to integrate into a call centre environment for technical reasons and because volumes of incoming click-to-call requests never quite reached levels at which they justified dedicated personnel. That meant responsiveness to click-to-call was never particularly good, making the technology less than effective.

Skype-to-Lync intetgration could change that, because Lync is sufficiently sophisticated to allow integration of incoming Skype calls into the pool of calls being handled inside an organisation. In Microsoft's wider scheme of things, person-to-person Skype-to-Lync calls may therefore be of less potential importance than Skype-to-call centre calls.

That scenario works for messaging too: Skype and Lync both have instant messaging features and they now interoperate, which makes the Skype/Lync combination more attractive for another web marketing favorite, the live chat.

Microsoft says video chat is its next priority, and is coming real soon now. ®

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