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Untangling Microsoft's communication and collaboration strategy

Paul Rubens | April 11, 2013
Microsoft announced at its Lync Conference in February that Lync and Skype are connected for IM, presence and voice communication.

What Yammer Brings to MIcrosoft

Since acquiring Yammer last July, Microsoft has added few significant features to the enterprise social networking service. One new feature that has been announced is the capability to translate Yammer messages, known as Yams, into the user's native language. This is done by integrating Microsoft Translator to provide the language capabilities.

It's likely that going forward, Yammer will be less of a feature to be developed, and more of a feature to be integrated with other products, particularly SharePoint, Helm says. "You'll probably be able to store documents in Yammer and land in SharePoint, or use Yammer to track sales prospects in Microsoft Dynamics. So there will be less deepening of Yammer, and more integrating it so that it becomes part of the furniture of the Microsoft living room," he says.

For the moment Microsoft is bundling Yammer along with SharePoint online, which is a paid-for service. But since Microsoft's strategy hinges on exploiting the freemium model, it's not inconceivable that at some point in the future there might be a basic free online offering of SharePoint with Yammer. Eventually they even become part of a single product, Helm suspects. "I think it's likely we'll see a merged Yammer/SharePoint online first, and eventually Yammer functionality will be merged in to the on-premise SharePoint offering as well," he says.

The Lync Room System

The most intriguing announcement at the Lync Conference was Lync Room System. This is designed to make it easy to use Lync with conferencing system hardware supplied by partners including Crestron, Lifesize, Polycom, and SMART. "Lync certified hardware makes a lot of sense, as end users are demanding systems that they don't have to configure," says Henry Dewing, an analyst at Forrester Research.

However, Dewing warns that Lync Room System puts Microsoft on a head-on collision course with networking giant Cisco, a company that also wants to dominate the market for unified collaboration and communications solutions. What differentiates the two approaches is that while Microsoft's is essentially software based--with hardware being supplied by partners--Cisco offers both.

But it's possible that Microsoft has plans to join the video conferencing hardware fray itself: Let's not forget that last year the company acquired Perceptive Pixel--a maker of big touch-capable conferencing screens. Microsoft is now in the tablet business with the release of its Surface devices which show off the capabilities of Windows 8, so a move into conferencing hardware to showcase Lync is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

So what's the role of Outlook in all of this? The venerable Office email client used to be at the heart of corporate communication and collaboration, but it seems almost redundant in a world of Yams, social media updates and desktop video conferencing. Far from it, Helm says.


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