Microsoft announces Skype for Business, will retire Lync

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Microsoft is trying to clarify what they mean when they say they’re a ‘productivity and platform’ company. Clearly, Microsoft has larger ambitions than so-called productivity apps: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and so on.

Frank Shaw, a communications exec at Microsoft recently characterized it this way:

  • We need to move away from tools that require us to learn how they work, to natural tools that learn to work the way we do
  • We need to move from tools focused on our individual abilities to tools that empower social productivity
  • We need to move from tools that wait for us to act, towards intelligent tools that understand context in order to anticipate and prioritize what matters most
  • We need to move from a world where time and place dictate what we can do to a truly mobile world that revolves around us so that any device can become your device
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Microsoft is moving quickly toward that vision with tools like Delve, the contextual support now available in Office 365 that surfaces relevant documents, events, contacts, and so on. And the company is not sticking just to searching docs and data in Office, as the recent partnership with Dropbox shows (see Dropbox partners up with Microsoft).

And Microsoft is newly attuned to what’s going on in the consumer mobile side of things, even though Microsoft isn’t selling much mobile hardware. Last week the company demonstrated how it’s paying attention by announcing that Microsoft Lync is going to be dropped as a brand, and relaunched Skype for Business. This will be taking place in the first half of 2015, with a new user experience much more like Skype. And of course, this means that businesses will have access to the hundreds of millions of Skype users walking the earth.

Here’s a screenshot of the new UI.

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This is an example of the new Microsoft, who, as I recently wrote in We’re seeing a very different Microsoft, regarding the switch to zero cost productivity tools on iOS and Android devices.

So, a very different Microsoft: one that is willing to partner, willing to accept the new economics of mobile, and learning how to coax customers to its web services with premium features instead of absolutist tactics. Learning to play, not to fight.

Here they are showing that they will listen to and learn from the market. Skype for Business will incorporate Skype’s smart design, like keeping an active call visible in a small window when the user uses a different app at the same time. More importantly, video calling will be rolled out, which Lync lacked.

Another smart move from Microsoft.

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