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Office 365 To Get Skype Integration

Microsoft will tie Lync Online with the VoIP platform to make it easier for users of either service to communicate with each other.

Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
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Microsoft plans to couple voice and video conferencing tools in Office 365 with Skype once its acquisition of the VoIP platform is complete, according to a company official.

Microsoft Office division president Kurt DelBene spoke of the plan Tuesday at the official Office 365 launch event in New York City. Office 365 is a rebranded, upgraded version of the company's Business Productivity Online Standard suite that adds Office Web Apps and other cloud services to the mix.

In speaking about Skype-Office 365 integration, DelBene confirmed much of what he told InformationWeek editors in an exclusive interview earlier this month--that Office 365's Lync communications tools and Skype will continue to exist as separate services, but they'll be closely tied.

"If you're a Lync user in your organization, in many cases you have people that are Skype users, for the consumer-oriented service of Skype that you'd want to connect to," said DelBene, in his interview with InformationWeek. "And you want to essentially have those Skype contacts be available from within Lync.

"For the Lync business in particular, it's a big opportunity to tap those large sets of consumers that use Skype," said DelBene.

Microsoft agreed to pay $8.5 billion for Skype on May 10. Beyond adding the Internet voice service to its Office tools, the company plans to use it as a means through which users of consumer products like the Xbox and Windows Phone can communicate with one another.

But it's in the office where Skype could be of most value to Microsoft. To the extent that it can enhance Office 365 services, it will make it tougher for rival Google to offer a competitive voice and video platform for business. Google's video chat service currently operates from within its Gmail e-mail service.

Microsoft's willingness to talk openly about its plan to link Skype and Office 365 is a sign that it plans to be more aggressive about bundling products now that its consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice has expired. The agreement, forged in the wake of the federal government's antitrust action against Microsoft, didn't explicitly prohibit bundling, but many observers believed its existence had a chilling effect on the practice regardless.

Microsoft has said it hopes to close its acquisition of Skype later this year. The DOJ indicated earlier this month that it would not raise any antitrust objections to the deal. European regulators, which in the past have slapped Microsoft for bundling certain applications with Windows, have yet to sign off on the acquisition.

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