Microsoft on Thursday released a preview of the next generation of its popular corporate videoconferencing and instant messaging software. That software was formerly known as Lync but will now be called Skype for Business.
The new Skype will hopefully help it fend off Google, who is coming on strong with its videoconferencing apps for business, Hangouts, according to a new report from market researcher Synergy. And Microsoft hopes the software will help it gain ground on Cisco, which is still the market leader.
Just like previous versions of Lync, businesses will be able to get Skype for Business in a variety of flavors: they can install it in their own data centers or they can get it as a service as part of Office 365, the online version of Office. Businesses like this software over using the consumer, freebie version of Skype, because it gives them all the IT security and controls they need.
The Office 365 version of Skype for Businesses should become popular because it will allow employees to make regular old phone calls to any phone number. They won't be restricted to calling other Skype/Lync accounts, Zig Serafin, corporate vice president for the Skype for Business team, announced in a blog.
That was actually no small feat. Microsoft had to upgrade data centers in 37 countries to make sure it could handle realtime communications to any phone number like this, Serafin wrote.
He also released usage numbers: over 100 million people use Microsoft Lync to communicate for work – it's also an IM/chat platform in addition to videoconferencing. Serafin said that 79 percent of U.S. enterprises either already use Lync for voice calls are are planning on adding that feature soon. Lync users can also call people with regular old consumer Skype accounts.
All told, Skype is getting 50 billion minutes of traffic every month, which Serafin says is "one third of the world’s long distance traffic." Half of Skype users use it for video calls.
But despite Skype's popularity, Microsoft isn't the company making the most money on videoconferencing. The lead still belongs to Cisco.
"Microsoft’s market share [by revenue] hit a peak in the first half of 2014 and it briefly matched Cisco for market leadership, but since then Cisco has accelerated away and has once again achieved a clear leadership role. In Q4 Cisco benefitted from a strong 9% sequential increase in revenues while Microsoft’s sequential growth was just 2%," Synergy Research said in its new report.
But Microsoft is looking at Google over its shoulder. Google Hangouts is a popular cloud service included with Google Apps and its share is growing fastest.
The top six leaders are: Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, IBM, Polycom and Google, Synergy finds.
"Google was consistently #6 for all four quarters of 2014. But one thing of note is that Google’s revenue growth rate is much higher than the companies ranked 1-5. Google’s revenue growth rate has been around 4 times the overall market growth rate," Synergy analyst John Dinsdale tells us.
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