Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Lync) and Microsoft Lync for Mac are instant messaging clients used with Skype for Business Server or Lync Online available with Microsoft Office 365. They are replacements for Windows Messenger, which was used with Microsoft Exchange Server.
Both Microsoft Lync and Microsoft Lync for Mac are enterprise software; compared to Windows Live Messenger and later Skype, they have a different feature set that is targeted toward corporate environments. On 11 November 2014, Microsoft announced that in 2015 Lync would be replaced by Skype for Business. The latest version of the communication software combines features of Lync and the consumer Skype software. There are two user interfaces – organizations can switch their users from the default Skype for Business interface to the Skype for Business (Lync) interface.
Microsoft made Lync 2010 generally available on 25 January 2011. The company had released the previous version, Office Communicator 2007 R2, on 19 March 2009. An even earlier version, Office Communicator 2007 was released to production on 28 July 2007 and launched on 27 October 2007. The full-featured desktop version of the client requires Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or newer.
Microsoft Lync 2010 was released for the Windows Phone, Android, and iOS platforms in December 2011. Lync and Lync Server 2013 were released in 2012.
On 11 November 2014, Microsoft announced that Lync would be replaced by Skype for Business in 2015, which would combine features of Lync and the consumer Skype software. In April 2015 Microsoft officially launched Skype for Business.
On 22 September 2015, Skype for Business 2016 was released alongside Office 2016.
Basic features of Skype for Business include:
- instant messaging
- Voice Over IP (VoIP)
- video conferencing inside the client software
Advanced features relate to integration with other Microsoft software:
- availability of contacts based on Microsoft Outlook contacts stored in a Microsoft Exchange Server
- users can retrieve contact lists from a local directory service such as Microsoft Exchange Server
- Microsoft Office can show if other people are working on the same document
- all communication between the clients takes place through a Microsoft Lync Server.
This makes communications more secure, as messages do not need to leave the corporate intranet, unlike with the Internet-based Windows Live Messenger. The server can be set to relay messages to other instant messaging networks, avoiding installation of extra software at the client side.
- a number of client types are available for Microsoft Lync, including mobile clients.
- uses SIP as the basis for its client communication protocol
- offers support for TLS and SRTP to encrypt and secure signaling and media traffic
- allows sharing files.
Note: With the release of Lync Server 2013 in October 2012, a new collaboration feature "Persistent Group Chat" which allows multi-party chat with preservation of content between chat sessions was introduced. However, only the native Windows OS client and no other platform supports this feature at this time. The main new features of this version are the addition of real-time multi-client collaborative software capabilities, (which allow teams of people to see and simultaneously work on the same documents and communications session). Lync implements these features as follows:
- collaboration through Whiteboard documents, where the participants
have freedom to share text, drawing and graphical annotations.
- collaboration through PowerPoint
documents, where the participants can control and see presentations, as well as allow everybody to add text, drawing and graphical annotations.
- polling lists, where Presenters can organize polls and all participants can vote and see results.
- desktop sharing, usually by allowing participants to see and collaborate on a Windows screen
- Windows applications sharing, by allowing participants to see and collaborate on a specific application.
All collaboration sessions get automatically defined as conferences, where clients can invite more contacts. Conference initiators (usually called "organizers") can either promote participants to act as presenters or demote them to act as attendees. They can also define some basic policies about what presenters and attendees can see and do. Deeper details of policy permissions are defined at server level. Following Microsoft's acquisition of Skype in May 2011, the company has deployed the technology within Lync, as well as its Windows Live Messenger and Xbox Live services.