Microsoft is muscling into the business communications space with the launch of Lync, a new piece of communications software that it says will ultimately replace corporate phone systems.
The software combines voice calling, instant messaging, video conferencing and Web conferencing in a single package - and Microsoft founder Bill Gates has hailed it as "the most important thing to happen to the office worker since the PC came along."
Lync is the latest version of Office Communications Server, which has been one of the fastest growing solutions at Microsoft, experiencing double-digit growth over the past three years.
"Businesses have been eagerly awaiting a communications solution that brings together a consistent and familiar user experience, and easy administration, authentication and storage for all the different communication channels - including voice and video communications, email, instant messaging, co-authoring, conference calling and presence," said Microsoft South Africa's Danie Gordon.
"IT departments are already looking at how Lync enables them evolve their infrastructure to enhance or eliminate their traditional PBX systems with Lync."
Gordon says Lync meets the toughest enterprise standards, but was built with the way people like to communicate in mind. "Any interaction can now feel like a face-to-face conversation, because it can include video- and audioconferencing, application and desktop sharing, instant messaging and presence, and telephony. Lync works with the applications people already use, so it's easy to become comfortable with the technology."
One of the early adopters of Lync in South Africa is Standard Bank, which is evaluating the solution to change the way it communicates, and transform the businesses while saving money.
"Lync 2010 client was very easy to install and was up and running in seconds. We especially like that it's a central rich application for all communication needs that follows you regardless of your location," said Blessing Sibanyoni, Product Manager, Standard Bank of South Africa. "This promises to be an efficiency booster for Standard Bank."
Standard Bank is in good company: globally, companies like Nikon have experienced a 30% increase in productivity, and plans to bring Lync to all 26 000 of its employees across the world. In addition, Nikon expects to reduce its expenses for hosted audio solutions by more than 50%.
"We want to move away from relying on a specific communication tools, like email," said Yoshiyasu Iizuka, General Manager of the Information Systems Department at Nikon Corporation. "We need capabilities that free people from the constraints of time and place. Our employees should be able to choose the best communications tools for each scenario they face."-
Early research by Forrester Consulting suggests significant potential savings in areas like travel costs and improved worker productivity. Gartner has been equally enthusiastic, with Bern Elliot, vice president of research, suggesting the release is "an important step" toward clarifying what the next generation of communication will look like.
Starting today, anyone can download a free trial version of Lync at https://products.office.com/en-ZA/skype-for-business, and business customers can purchase Lync from December 1.