Microsoft buries Lync with Skype for Business rollout

But IT admins can keep workers on the older Lync UI if they want

Microsoft today began distributing the revamped Lync client, dubbed Skype for Business since last November, to Office customers.

The updated client was part of the April refresh for Office 2013 issued Tuesday. Not only rebranded but also redesigned from the older Lync, Skype for Business borrowed some user interface (UI) elements from the consumer-grade Skype client.

Office 365 customers with rights to Lync Online -- including those signed up with Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month) and Enterprise E3 ($20) -- will receive the new client starting today. But the rollout won't wrap up until the end of May, Microsoft said.

Microsoft announced the changes in November, three years after the acquisition of Skype, finally answering analysts' questions about why the firm maintained two lines of such similar software. Both Lync and Skype focused on instant messaging and video conferencing, with the former relegated to businesses and the latter aimed at consumers.

Skype for Business customers will be able to reach Skype users not only for instant messaging chats and audio calls, but also for video calls, another part of the integration push that went beyond monikers.

The new Skype for Business client will be the default for both Office 2013 and Office 365 users, unless employees rely on an on-premises Lync Server. In the latter case, Lync remains the default client.

IT administrators who do not want their workers to adopt the new front-end can force the use of the older Lync UI using Group Policy settings. Likewise, admins who support on-premises Lync Server can switch users to the Skype for Business UI immediately, also via Group Policy. Microsoft has published detailed instructions for Office 365 users and those connecting to an in-house Lync server.

Skype for Business is also available as a stand-alone cloud-based service, with commercial prices of $2 or $5.50 per user per month.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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