True or False: One Billion People will be Using Microsoft Universal Communications in this Decade

February 20, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Much of the attention of the enterprise communications community has been captured by the Lync 2014 Conference that is taking place in Las Vegas this week. Microsoft Lync has emerged as a powerful competitor in the enterprise communications marketplace and everyone is watching ongoing product developments and related Microsoft strategic moves to be able to predict the future impact of Lync on end-user demand, technology evolution, and competitor market positioning.

In his keynote Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President for Lync & Skype Engineering, highlighted key Lync accomplishments over the past years and major strategic objectives for the near- and long-term future. He started by pointing out how the event itself has evolved from last year: from old and quaint Coronado to a much more modern setting in Las Vegas; from 800 to over 1,600 attendees, from 60 to over 100 sessions.

Singh Pall went on to highlight some key differences between Microsoft’s vision and that of other vendors. He talked about how the rest of the industry thought VoIP was disruptive. Unlike others, Microsoft has based its strategy one the premise that the most important thing is the user experience. Another tenet of Microsoft’s vision is the belief that general-purposes processors can transform computing and communications.

But one of his most important statements that Singh Pall made in the very beginning of his presentation was about the transition from unified communications to universal communications—a trend that he believes Microsoft will set for the next decade.

According to Singh Pall, Lync’s success was obvious from the very beginning. When LCS was launched it made $16K in the first month. In its fiscal year ended in June 2013, Microsoft reported that Lync revenues had reached $1B. Lync has now had 38 quarters of double-digit revenue growth; 60% of enterprises in the US have deployed or are deploying Lync. Skype adds more value to Microsoft’s communications portfolio with approximately one-third of all long-distance calling in the world happening on Skype.

Singh Pall also highlighted Microsoft’s commitment to continued innovation through quarterly product releases and delivering updates on 14 different platforms. Over the past year, Microsoft enabled Lync-Skype voice and video connectivity and launched Lync room systems. A new Lync server is underway. With an ecosystem of 1,300 certified partners, Microsoft is able to deliver a number of additional capabilities to its customers including Lync-optimized devices with contextual intelligence from partners such as Jabra, Logitech, Plantronics and Sennheiser.

Microsoft intends to continue to focus on embedding communications into business processes. It also plans to enhance its cloud solution Lync Online with PSTN connectivity. Finally, it is planning to enable large meetings in Lync Online.

Customers attested to the value they have received from deploying Lync in their organizations. Dean Leung, CIO, Holland & Knight LLP, evaluated Cisco and Microsoft solutions for his company. Integrating both seemed to present a lot of complexity. Cisco appeared mostly phone-centric, whereas Microsoft offered a much more desktop-centric approach. Leung appreciated the single pain of glass offered by Microsoft and chose to go with Lync. Users at Holland & Knight appreciate the click-to-call functionality in Lync, the mobile app, and even the video capabilities.

Herb Keller, CTO of Adventist Health Systems gave examples of how his organization was using Lync to improve patient care, while also saving money for both patients and doctors. Adventist Health Systems is moving to Lync audio conferencing and looking to replace Cisco room video systems with Lync.

Singh Pall wrapped up his presentation with a brief review of the mega trends that are setting the context for future technology developments in enterprise communications:

• Work & life balance
• Social networking
• Proliferation of devices
• Synchronous and asynchronous communications/collaboration
• Cloud

Singh Pall concluded by stating that 1 billion people in this decade would be using MSFT universal communications. That is the inspiration Singh Pall is setting up for his team.

It is hard to deny Lync’s success given the facts presented by the new VP. Everything we hear from customers, partners and even Microsoft’s competitors also seems to point to Lync’s growing appeal and adoption among enterprise customers. But how new is really the idea of universal communications? Maybe no one called it so until now, but the vision has been around for a while. Also, with such a broad term how does one measure adoption and how does one attribute any particular deployment to a single vendor?

Lync is now the dominant platform for enterprise instant messaging and presence. Microsoft has also become a key market share holder in the enterprise communications market, even though it took the vendor a few years longer than it originally anticipated. We don’t believe it is indeed the number 1 UC vendor based on shipments (as it claims) because we know many Lync PLUS licenses that have been sold have not been activated. But then Singh Pall also said that human beings overestimate what can be done in 3 years and underestimate what can be done in 10 years. So we can wait and see how far Microsoft Lync will get in the next few years.

I’d love to hear what others think about “universal communications”. Is it just a new song to an old tune? Where do you see Microsoft at the end of this decade

Tags: unified communications, Lync, VoIP, universal communications

Re: True or False: One Billion People will be Using Microsoft Universal Communications in this Decade

February 20, 2014 at 2:53 PM
The term "universal communications" feels very Star Trek to me, which is honestly a good thing. It invokes the notion of the seamless communications that we (both as consumers and industry watchers) have been pining for.

While I wouldn't define what Microsoft is offering today as universal, I really liked that they made a point to demo the cross-platform capabilities of Lync clients, showing all of us that they understand that their products exist is a BYOD world. This is a far cry from the Microsoft of old that would have supported their own mobile devices only as an effort to prop up a less successful business unit.

Re: True or False: One Billion People will be Using Microsoft Universal Communications in this Decade

February 20, 2014 at 7:27 PM
One billion in 10 years seems like a very high goal. Not least because, in 10 years, what percentage of employees will be using any kind of enterprise communications system? Seems just as likely that we will all be bringing our own devices to work, and using whatever (open) comms apps and services we like and choose.

For instance, in a recent survey of IT staff and end users who have deployed Google Apps at the office, two-thirds of IT respondents and 58 percent of end users said they are willing to spend their own money on technology that will make their work lives easier and/or more productive. That's a HUGE shift and will have a big impact on what "enterprise" IT looks like in 2024.