By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated February 19, 2013.
When Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011, many industry observers wondered if the company was throwing its money away. Now, the software giant is integrating Skype more closely with its enterprise-oriented Lync software product, and the Skype division, which now includes Lync, is approaching the sales level of Microsoft's SharePoint unit.
Giovanni Mezgec, a general manager in the Skype division, told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that the Skype unit's total revenue is nearing the $2 billion-plus level that SharePoint generates, which would mark a major turning point in the evolution of Net-based communications at Microsoft. Mezgec also said that Lync has 5 million users, an increase of 2 million from only 14 months ago.
In the corporate market, Microsoft is competing with Cisco for Net-based communications and telephony, which is expected to be a market worth nearly $15 billion within three years. Mezgec said that 90 of the Fortune 100 companies use Lync.
The Beginning of B2X
Skype is the consumer-facing side of the division, although Microsoft has also been developing various business-directed components, such as a Skype-based online marketplace for small businesses.
Lync offers functions similar to Skype's -- instant messaging, video conferencing and Net-based phone calls -- but with the management oversight controls that IT requires. Lync is available as part of the Microsoft Office suite, or can be obtained in a cloud version. The company has recently moved the Lync team into the Skype division, which is being run by Division President Tony Bates, the CEO of Skype before the acquisition.
In a posting on The Official Microsoft Blog on Thursday, Bates announced that Lync-Skype connectivity for presence, instant messaging and voice would be available by June for all Lync users. He said that integration would "begin to enable what we call B2X," an approach which "puts people first and looks at communications in a unified way, not as disparate technology silos focused on one task or protocol."
Other Lync News
The company also took the wraps off the Lync Room System, which includes cameras and automatically configured lights, so that users can video conference and share content without technical difficulties. Additionally, Lync 2013 mobile apps for Windows Phone 8 and iOS will be available next month, followed by an Android version shortly thereafter.
Other Lync announcements describe several products expected within the next 18 months. These include quarterly updates to the Lync server, enterprise voice support to Lync Online/Office 365, and the addition of video to the Skype + Lync connectivity. The integration of Skype and Lync, Bates said, is key to the company's vision of the future of communications that runs "from the living room to the boardroom."
The Lync announcements follow a stream of Skype-related ones in recent months. Last week, for example, Microsoft announced Skype video messaging for iOS and Android devices and for Macs, with a Windows version expected in April. Last month, Skype for Windows 6.1 was released with Outlook integration, and the company has migrated its Messenger account users to Skype. In November, Microsoft launched Skype in the workplace, an online community for small businesses.