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Will Lync Replace the PBX?

When Microsoft launched its Lync universal communications and collaboration platform this week, the mandate was clear: that Lync is destined to replace traditional office telecommunications systems.

"The era of the PBX, folks, is over," said Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Office Communications Group. Pall made that point several times at the public launch event and in a follow-up discussion.

Some say not so fast. Even those that have jumped on the Lync bandwagon are not bringing the forklift in just yet. A perfect example is Estee Lauder, the huge cosmetics conglomerate. I sat down with Earl Newsone, Estee Lauder's VP of global IT services, who said while scrapping the company's PBX systems would be nice, not so at the expense of good solid dial time.

"Once we're convinced that Lync can give us dial tone then we can begin to start to look at it as a replacement to the PBX," Newsone said. Newsone needs to be convinced that if his company removes its PBXes they won't be left with a tinny and unreliable connection.

Mark Roberts, vice president of partner marketing at Polycom, Microsoft's "best-of-breed" partner for Lync, told me he expects to see aggressive take-up of customers who will replace their PBXs with Lync. But he acknowledged it will be a gradual shift.

"We're not advocating that you rip out your entire PBX on day one and replace it with Lync on day two," Roberts said. "I don't expect it's going to be a seamless transition but what we are proposing is that you work aggressively with your channel partners to understand the specifics in migrating to a full UC solution using Lync as the core platform for it."

Rich Skoba, worldwide director for universal communications and collaboration at Hewlett-Packard, said Lync for the foreseeable future will likely co-exist with existing PBXes.

"I believe you're going to see a combination of PBXes in the accounts, because a lot of those are not end of life," Skoba said. "Customers are just not going to let those go. But I also believe you are going to see the Microsoft stack, in particularly Lync, integrated in and enhancing the PBX experience."

For his part, Pall told me in an interview that he sees the PBX on a "downward slide. At some point it won't be relevant." But even Pall said that the transition might not happen overnight. "Personally, I  believe that any customer today who's going to make a choice on buying the next PBX, if they think about it all they will probably think twice and ask, 'Is this the right thing that I'm doing?' In some situations some people may end up buying a PBX but I think the game has changed."

Do you think the game will change with Lync? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on November 19, 2010 at 11:59 AM