• Microsoft has begun to pull together its consumer and enterprise communications platforms with direct points of integration for presence, chat and audio.
• Such interactivity, however, requires the use of Microsoft’s historically consumer-oriented ID system (formerly branded Windows Live ID), blurring the lines between corporate and consumer personas.
Rome was not built in a day (or so I’ve been told). So too, Microsoft’s planned work to fully unify Lync and Skype will take some time before it reaches fruition – sometime in 2014 to be a tad more specific. That’s when these two products will at last allow users from both sides to share video conferencing services. Microsoft’s first step along this path began a few weeks ago with address book integration. Skype users can now add Lync users (via invitation, mind you) to their address books and vice-versa. This allows both parties to share presence and initiate audio and chat sessions with one another. Certainly, there’s a long way to go from this to a fully unified experience for both users and administrators alike. But as with so many things, including most Microsoft engineering efforts, if you wait at the bus stop long enough, soon enough your bus will arrive.
What struck me about this first step, however, wasn’t the typical Microsoft sense of predestined but purloined success but rather some bewilderment over an almost cavalier requirement that Skype/Lync users adopt a Microsoft user id (what we used to call Windows Live ID) to make the magic happen. Current Skype users with a SkypeID will have to merge the two. But if you’re an avid Xbox gamer, that ID will do just fine thank you very much. Given the arms-length kept between consumer and corporate renditions of Microsoft SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro, when they were first released, this seems like a radical move for Microsoft. Rest assured this is part of a broad plan to re-humanize communications from the living room to the boardroom, to paraphrase Microsoft.
Does this mean that enterprise users will have to fend off Xbox gaming requests while tallying corporate finances? I doubt it. We have entered an era with nebulous lines of distinction drawn between corporate and consumer identities. By and large, users understand the shifting nature of such boundaries, a testament perhaps to the adaptability of the human animal. What’s telling is that Microsoft has moved to leverage its own (pre-Skype) user ID infrastructure as a foundation for both corporate and consumer interaction. We saw this initially with Yahoo!, most recently with Google, and we’re likely to see it from Facebook in the future as well. IT must prepare itself for this inevitability, the inevitability that while they may be able to control the flow of content across the firewall, there will be little control over the flow of humanity itself. That’s a job not for IT alone but for IT in partnership with human resources. And like many complicated and nuanced endeavors, it won’t be built in a day.