Microsoft didn’t push its Lync technology at journalists during TechEd 2013 in Auckland. There were no specific Lync-related media briefings, no scheduled interview opportunities.

Yet I came away with the clear impression unified communications is as central to Microsoft’s future as devices, operating systems and Office.

That’s because the topic came up unbidden in five of the seven media interview and press conference sessions I took part in. Each time a customer or a user mentioned it first, not Microsoft.

One user mentioning Lync is also a Microsoft employee. But Darrell Smith is a special case. He is the facilities manager at Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

Lync, a business-class Skype

Lync’s popularity should come as no surprise. One user described it as a “business class” version of Skype — one of the most popular consumer communications apps.

Frost & Sullivan’s ANZ ICT research head Audrey William describes it as a “disruptive force in the unified communications market”. She says “Adoption is particularly high in New Zealand”.

William says many businesses are seeing huge benefits from Lync. She says the latest version delivers about 95 percent of PBX functionality. She says: “It’s close to having a phone on your desk”.

Saving professional service fees

William says companies save a huge amount of spending on professional services by moving to Lync. She says: “It cuts down on the contract maintenance fees companies normally pay for phone system support. Vendors who were previously selling telecommunications kit are feeling the pressure.

“It’s relatively easy to implement, especially for companies already committed to Microsoft. It integrates with Active Server, with SharePoint and with Microsoft apps”.

Lync has certainly moved centre stage as boards and managers contemplate unified communications. William says Microsoft’s offering has gone from being an outsider to the point where it now seems to always be on the shortlist.