Skype's influence is growing inside Microsoft

Skype leader Tony Bates is bringing his consumer-centric vision to Lync, Microsoft's enterprise videoconferencing offering. Credit: Fortune Live Media via Flickr

The consumerization of Lync, Microsoft’s enterprise messaging and video conferencing platform, is in full swing, even if it’s happening a bit slower than expected.

Microsoft kicked off its Lync conference, in San Diego, this morning.

There, the company said that the integration of Lync and Skype for presence, IM, and voice will become available to Lync users by June. That’s later than people had initially expected. Mary Jo Foley reports that Skype federation was part of a beta of Lync 2013 last summer but didn’t end up making it into the final product that was released to manufacturing late last year.

More interesting is that Skype -- a consumer service -- seems to be having a big influence on Lync, an enterprise offering that has been around in one form or another for almost a decade. That's unusual at Microsoft, which usually subsumes acquired companies into existing product divisions, as seems to be happening at Yammer now.

In contrast, Tony Bates, former CEO of Skype, now runs the division that includes Lync, and he is bringing his consumer focus from Skype to Lync. His blog post about his keynote presentation heavily focuses on combining the best of personal and professional products.

“All day, every day, we are all simultaneously consumers and professionals, friends, family and colleagues – and our communications technologies need to move between these dimensions as seamlessly as we do,” he wrote in the post.

He’s hoping to offer a common user experience across the products and let people access the apps from any device they want. “As consumers, professionals and decision-makers for our organizations, we need to put people back at the center of communications,” he wrote.

Connecting Lync and Skype will help with that vision. Microsoft also is updating its Lync mobile apps for Windows Phone 8 and iOS, which will come out in early March with the Android pap coming a month later. The apps get VoIP and video.

In the next 18 months, Microsoft also plans to enable native interoperability between Lync and third party video teleconference providers. It is also partnering with hardware providers like Polycom and LifeSize to build Lync into conference room gear.

The integration of Lync and Skype comes as Microsoft is phasing out its consumer IM client, Messenger. Microsoft has begun shifting Messenger IM users to Skype, but got off to a rocky start and is now pushing back the transition into April instead of mid-March.

Despite Lync's long history of rebrands and image as a big enterprise buy, the business is humming along. The Skype division is nearing a $2 billion a year business, according to a Bloomberg report, and there are now 5 million users of the most expensive version of Lync, up from 3 million just over a year ago.

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