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9/22/2011
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Microsoft Set To Launch Lync Mobile

Collaboration and videoconferencing suite coming to Windows Phone 7, Google Android, and Apple iOS devices.

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Microsoft in the coming weeks will release a version of its Lync collaboration suite for a number of mobile platforms, a company executive said.

Kirk Gregersen, senior director for Lync in Microsoft's Office division, said the software maker plans to release Microsoft Lync Mobile for Windows Phone 7, as well as for rival offerings from Apple and Google. "We want to be where our users are," said Gregersen, in an interview Wednesday at Microsoft's New York City office.

It makes sense for Microsoft to roll out Lync Mobile to mobile platforms beyond its own. Google's Android OS currently holds 41.8% of the U.S. mobile operating system market, according to the latest data from Comscore, while Apple iOS devices hold 27%. Windows mobile operating systems, including Windows Phone, hold just 5.7%.

The Windows Phone client for Lync Mobile will run on both the original version of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, an update that's due to ship in the next week or two. Lync Mobile will be available sometime in the current calendar year, said Gregersen, who declined to provide a more specific timeframe.

[Take an in-depth look at Microsoft's "re-imagined" operating system in Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop.]

Lync Mobile will replace Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile as Redmond's main entry in the mobile collaboration market. Microsoft introduced Lync last year as part of the Office and Office 365 suites. The portal pulls together a number of collaborative services, including messaging, videoconferencing, presence, and microblogging.

The next big update, beyond the mobile version, is a patch that will allow desktop users to make Internet calls directly from within Lync to any landline or mobile device. Microsoft is rolling out the service in collaboration with mobile VoIP specialist Jah Jah. It will be available next year, said Gregerson.

Microsoft also plans to integrate Lync with Skype, which the company in May agreed to purchase for $8.5 billion.

Microsoft won't discuss in detail how it envisions Skype working with Lync until the deal is complete. Broadly speaking, however, it sees a scenario under which Lync users will be able to communicate directly with the full universe of Skype users as well as with individuals on their corporate Lync networks. "We don't federate with Skype today," said Gregersen.

Beyond that, "I'm not really allowed to talk about Skype," said Gregersen, until regulators sign off on the acquisition. Microsoft has said it hopes to close the deal by the end of this year.

Gregersen thinks there's big growth potential for Lync, even though "millions" of business users are already relying on it for VoIP communications. "There's a lot of companies that still don't even have a basic IM client," he said. Microsoft is pitching Lync as a way for businesses to boost internal collaboration and cut down on expensive and time-consuming face-to-face meetings.

Lync also uses open APIs that let organizations embed its services directly into their own, custom applications.

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