Lync, as I’m sure you are well aware, is Microsoft’s Unified Communications platform. I just want to look closely at the key phrase: “Unified Communications”, it should be fairly obvious how Lync helps you out with communication if you’ve come across it before but what about the “Unified”?
In the context of UC this phrase is generally taken to mean “all your communication needs in one place” and this is jazzed up in the official Microsoft marketing description as: “Microsoft® Lync™ ushers in a new connected user experience transforming every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative, engaging, and accessible from anywhere”. I don’t have a problem with the first part of that sentence as I happen to think that Lync does a really good job of bringing together a lot of very complicated technologies and presenting them to the end user in a friendly and intuitive way. It also certainly satisfies the traditional definition of UC. However, I’m not sure about “accessible from anywhere”. To me being able to access my data wherever I am is becoming increasingly important and the lack of official mobile support is putting a pretty big hole in my definition of “Unified”.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some great solutions available through third parties such as Xync by Damaka who provide a client for iPhone, iPad and Android or iDialog from Modality Systems whose system utilises the Communicator Web Access server role from Communicator to provide Lync messaging to the IOS platform. But these provide a bit of a dilemma for IT Departments, sure you want to encourage your users to use Lync but do you go “unofficial” and deploy third party clients which might have their own licensing and support implications or do you hang on and wait for the official clients? If you go unofficial what happens when Microsoft release Lync SP1 or R2? How long would it take for your chosen third party to bring their clients into line?
Rumour has it that the official mobile client launch is imminent. The recent release of cumulative update 4 (on the 18th) which adds some interesting new PowerShell commands for managing push notifications for mobile clients supports the rumours. But what if, as is expected, the official clients come out and they can’t support voice or video calls for another 6 months? Again, not a very “Unified” experience.
Microsoft has never been great in the past at supporting third-party platforms but there are signs that this is changing, but I just wish they would hurry things along a little bit. With their acquisition of Skype and their huge push into cloud with the likes of Office 365 they are going to have to start fully supporting more and more platforms (browsers, mobile phones and other operating systems) if they want to get the user base they need. It is time to start considering mobile clients first class citizens when it comes to product releases and not as something that “we’ll get around to”.
So come on Microsoft, surprise us all. Release the fully featured mobile clients and finally give us a true unified “anywhere access” to our engaging & accessible collaborative communications experience! I’m looking forward to it.