Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Lync never built up the name recognition secured by the company's Office, Windows, and Skype brands.
A useful piece of enterprise software, Lync was a mix of instant messenger, group communications tool, and facilitator of Skype-like audio and video calls. The program made it easy for remote teams to communicate and even facilitated online discussion between in-house staff without need for a conference room.
It was a good program that suffered from bad marketing, and perhaps customer confusion. Now Microsoft is fixing that by relaunching Lync under the name "Skype for Business."
It looks like Skype
One of the problems with Lync (a program I admittedly loved during my time as a Microsoft vendor) was its somewhat unfamiliar interface. It did not look like Skype or Office and was a bit of an outlier in the Microsoft product family. Skype for Business fixes that, according to TechCrunch:
With Skype for Business, enterprise customers will have access to software that greatly resembles Skype's consumer-facing client application in look-and-feel, but it comes with enterprise-grade security and compliance features that allow an IT organization to better administer and control the software's use internally within an organization.
That's a huge advantage because Skype is familiar to hundreds of millions of people. This removes much of the learning curve in a business environment, which lowers implementation costs and makes it more likely a company will give the program a chance.
It's integrated into Office
While earlier versions of Lync operated as a sort of sidebar program that sat over other programs, Skype for Business is fully integrated into Office. That means it is possible to initiate chats, calls, and meetings directly from any Office program. The improved software also makes it easier (although it was already easy) to share Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other documents within Skype for Business.
"It is built right into Office, so features like presence, IM, voice and video calls, and online meetings are an integrated part of the Office experience," Microsoft wrote in a blog post.
You don't need to have the software
One of Lync's nicer features, which carries over to Skype for Business, is that you don't need to have the software to participate in a meeting. This makes using the software to facilitate conferences with people inside and outside your organizations easy (easier in my experience than GoToMeeting, which requires a software download).
Skype for Business allows up to 250 people to participate in a meeting, and "all they need is a phone or Internet connection," according to Microsoft.
It's an automatic upgrade
Though it's possible for companies to delay the upgrade, most will receive it automatically, the company explained in the blog post: "We will automatically update the Lync Online service to be Skype for Business Online, and all customers are expected to be transitioned by the end of May."
Enterprise users can keep using traditional Lync and schedule the changeover at their convenience: "Administrators for current Lync Online or Lync Server customers can control when the updated experience is rolled out to their users by visiting this page."
There's little reason for users to fear the upgrade as the interface is not a massive change; the fact that many users will already have Skype experience should remove some of the fear.
This is a smart move
Lync was an unfamiliar brand that Microsoft had to spend money to establish. Skype for Business is a professional iteration of a program that hundreds of millions of people already use. Through a simple name change, the company has lowered its marketing costs and removed a level of consumer fear.
This change should bring Lync -- now Skype for Business -- to a broader audience. That's good for Microsoft and for the companies that use this software that can be a big aid in productivity.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Microsoft. He really misses using Lync. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.