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Microsoft Lync Partners Bullish on Skype Deal

While most of the analysis of Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype has focused on the consumer aspects of the deal, partners have responded enthusiastically and are seeing some opportunities for Skype alongside Microsoft Lync.

Skype runs a global videoconferencing and voice communication network with 170 million subscribers. Entry-level service is free and paid services allow multipoint conferences and communications with non-Skype users.

When announcing the deal Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned the company's Lync platform several times: "We want to extend the reach of Skype by connecting Skype users with users of our Outlook products, our Lync enterprise unified communications product, Xbox Live, and other opportunities like Messenger and Hotmail," Ballmer said.

"I am thrilled. I think that this is a great move by Microsoft," said Benjamin Tosado, vice president of professional services at Conquest Technology Services, which has a fast-growing Lync practice. "It furthers extends their capabilities in the communications arena and will help them put together a communications solution that can seamlessly and securely connect people and organizations all over the globe using software and the Internet."

Tosado sees a lot of common elements between Skype and Lync. "They are both IP-based voice, video and IM platforms. They are both engineered to work over unmanaged networks."

To him, the difference is the target audience, with Lync for organizations and Skype for consumers. "I could see Skype federating with Lync and offering seamless IP-based communications across organizations and consumers alike," Tosado said.

Ryan Risley, chief technology officer for Brittenford Systems Inc., sees an opportunity with Skype for partners to have something to recommend in place of Microsoft Response Point, the SMB-focused phone system that Microsoft discontinued.

"I still see Skype primarily as consumer based collaboration system. Skype has a number of business options for call routing which could appeal to smaller businesses -- as it already does," Risley said.

Ian Guyer, principal with Guyer Consulting, said the Skype purchase may also help overcome customer objections to Lync: "This will make Lync more mainstream, or in other words 'an easier choice' for the buyer."

Added Tosado: "This will definitely help us with objections about integration with organizations and users that don't run Lync and platforms that Lync doesn't support."

Risley is concerned that the price of Skype based on its profits may cause Microsoft some problems, but said that may be outweighed by Skype's brand value. "The consumer value of the loyal following of Skype users could be a boost for the mobile and Windows Live platforms and help compete with Google Talk/voice," Risley said. "[Skype's] kind of global reach is hard to put a price on."

Guyer is even more bullish on the competitive benefits. "Apple and Google can make all the marketing campaigns they want, but Microsoft's SharePoint and Lync are big home runs for Microsoft and they can't produce a competing product any time soon. SharePoint has managed to get the credibility it needs to be adopted into the corporate world.  Lync does not/did not have that credibility. Adding or merging Skype into the Lync product line could end up being a stroke of genius."

About the Author

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

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