Lync-Skype Chief: 'Era of Universal Communications Is Here'

Microsoft's top executive for Lync and Skype declared the start of a new era of communications and offered a bold user-number prediction at the second annual Microsoft Lync Conference on Tuesday.

"I believe that in every decade there is sort of a new way to think about things. With your permission today, we can shut the era of unified communications and move on to the era of universal communications," said Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft corporate vice president for Lync and Skype Engineering, during the kickoff keynote.

"The era of universal communications is here to stay. That's what the next decade is going to be about. It's going to change your and my life. In fact, 1 billion people in this decade will use Microsoft universal communications. That is the aspiration that I'm setting out for the team," Pall told the gathering of about 1,600 customers, partners and vendors attending the three-day conference in Las Vegas.

Pall defined universal communications as having five pillars: global reach through the cloud, video everywhere, the ability to work across all devices, context and application intelligence, and a consistent experience for work and life.

He made an especially impassioned pitch for enabling video, saying that when users see and hear each other, they connect better and share higher levels of trust and engagement.

"You should be able to reach anybody anywhere in the world with video," Pall said and promised 1080p resolution now, with 4K resolution coming next. "All of this is just imminent," he said.

Even for Microsoft, 1 billion is a bold number. Last June, Microsoft claimed to have 299 million connected users on its consumer-focused Skype platform, while the user counts for enterprise-focused Lync are measured in lesser orders of magnitude.

Returning to the communications side of Microsoft from what he called a "sabbatical" working on the Bing search engine, Pall reeled off Lync's milestones, including 29 percent growth in the last quarter, growth rates at double digits every quarter for more than five years and the achievement of a $1 billion revenue run-rate last year.

To demonstrate Microsoft's commitment to keep driving new technology into Lync and Skype, PallĀ  displayed on the screen the most famous quote yet from new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The quote, from Nadella's official and public letter to Microsoft employees, reads, "Our industry does not respect tradition -- it only respects innovation."

Shorter term, Pall's co-presenter Derek Burney, Microsoft corporate vice president for Strategic Relations and Solutions, demonstrated four technologies that customers will get this year.

[Click on image for larger view.] Microsoft's Derek Burney demonstrating Lync-to-Skype video calling.

One is support for Android tablets. Microsoft has been fairly aggressive with other platforms, including several new releases in the last year of the Lync Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android phones. "The software will be available on Google Play by the end of June," Burney, a rock-and-roll enthusiast, said after setting up an onstage meeting involving four Kiss bobble heads on an iPhone, an Android phone, an Android tablet and some Windows devices.

Microsoft also demonstrated the long-promised Skype-Lync video integration, expanding the business platform's capabilities for B2C communication, as well as client and partner communication. Burney also showed new videoconferencing interoperability between Lync Server and Cisco System's Tandberg videoconferencing equipment. He also demonstrated browser extensibility with voice, video and other content.

Pall said other features Microsoft will deliver soon for Lync include the ability to make and receive PSTN calls from Lync Online and support for larger meetings of thousands of users in Lync Online.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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