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Microsoft makes UC affordable to SMBs with Lync launch

Lync Server 2010 connects people in real-time anytime, anywhere

With the release of its Lync Server 2010 unified communications (UC) and collaboration system, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) hopes to transform the way customers communicate and interact with software.

During a launch event held last week for the media, Vineet Parmar, senior product manager for UC at Microsoft Canada, said Lync 2010 is a replacement for Office Communications Server (OCS).

“Lync Server helps customers support a distributed and diverse working group across geographically-bound organizations,” Parmar said.

Especially with today’s changing social and workplace standards, Parmar said younger workers bring demands for how they wish to collaborate and communicate in the workplace. Lync aims to address these issues with built-in features which include conferencing, instant messaging, presence and voice, all from a single user interface that remains consistent across PCs, browsers and mobile devices.

Parmar cited a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Microsoft from October 25 to November 1, 2010 which surveyed 1,046 individuals from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel. The survey found that 90 per cent of Canadians said they wouldn’t relocate for a new job.

”Businesses in Canada should think about how they implement productivity tools like UC to see how they can attract and recruit the top minds in Canada,” he said. “Lync Server 2010 is a software-based UC solution that connects people in real-time anytime, anywhere.”

The solution is ideal for SMBs with multiple workspace locations or employees scattered across geographies, Parmar said.

Burnaby, B.C.-based Creation Technologies, a high-tech electronics manufacturer, has been using Lync for the past few months. Douglas Besse, Creation’s executive vice-president and CIO, said since the implementation of Lync the company has been able to work across offices in order to make “quick decisions on behalf of their customers.”

“It allows us to take our physical location out of equation,” he said. “Now, all we need to deal with are time zones. Before we moved forward with Lync, we had different layers of hardware and software technologies in our organization which was not only costly, but also made it time-consuming to get everything working together. Now we have one integrated application so there are no disparate technologies anymore.”

For channel partners, Parmar said there are “significant opportunities” to deliver Lync, such as with services sales.

“There’s a big opportunity for partners to work with customers to help with consolidation as it relates to services,” he said.

Andy Papadopoulos, formerly of LegendCorp. which later merged with Toronto-based Navantis, where he is now a managing partner, said having Lync in the company’s product portfolio brings great value to his company from an integration standpoint.

“You have integration with Office, SharePoint and CRM. Lync allows you to stay in the familiar tool that you’re used to communicating with,” he said. “When Lync gets installed for customers, they get incredible productivity boosts.”

For Navantis, Papadopoulos said there has been interest and adoption for Lync in the professional services space, such as law firms. Healthcare, energy and utility are other vertical-specific industries that have also taken a liking to the solution. Most importantly though, Papadopoulos said it’s important to recognize that Lync is a very horizontal product that works across markets.

“For us, Lync involves a solution play,” he said. “When we implement Lync it’s often implemented with CRM, Office and connecting it to what ever other systems the customer may have. Now with Lync, wherever you are in the world, you can do your work because it’s no longer tied to a location.”

Lync Server 2010 is now available through Microsoft and its network of global channel partners. Pricing for the solution is as follows: the Standard Edition will cost $699 and the Enterprise Edition is $3,999.

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