by Shane O'Neill

Cisco to Microsoft: Your Lync Mobile App Is Lame

Dec 21, 20113 mins
Cloud ComputingMicrosoft OfficeMobile

Microsoft opens up Office mobile apps Lync and OneNote to Windows Phone and other platforms, but unified communications rival Cisco calls the effort half-hearted.

Microsoft has been quietly facing the truth in the mobile market by making its apps available on other mobile platforms, namely iOS and Android.

In the past two weeks, Microsoft has announced iOS-based versions of information gathering app OneNote and consumer cloud service, SkyDrive. In addition, a mobile client for Lync 2010, Microsoft’s unified communications suite for corporate instant-messaging, audio/video conferencing and voice-over-IP telephony, is now available for Windows Phone and will be “available shortly” for iOS and Android, the company stated in blog post. Can Sharepoint be far behind?

This goes against Microsoft’s traditional nature of keeping its software in the Microsoft ecosystem. But, wisely, Microsoft has finally realized that it is no longer the neighborhood bully in computing.

Keeping the sacred Office apps as Windows Phone-only entities is counterproductive. Windows Phone just isn’t gaining any traction, and Windows 8 tablets are a long way off with no guarantee of success. The time is right for Microsoft to send its apps out into the wilderness for those many users who like Office yet are not using Windows Phones.

“We’re investing to make sure our technology is available where people are working,” said Tom Rizzo, Microsoft Senior Director for Office and Office 365, in a recent interview.

The Lync mobile app announcement last week did elicit some fighting words from unified communications rival Cisco. In a company blog post, Michael Smith, group director of marketing for Cisco collaboration, accuses Microsoft of cutting corners with the mobile version of Lync. Even though Lync is being opened up to iOS and Android, it is a watered down app compared to Cisco’s UC mobile app, Jabber, writes Smith.

“I expected Microsoft to really embrace the 500,000+ Android devices activated daily or the more than 40 million Apple iPads and iPhones that will be sold this holiday season with a full mobile UC client for Lync. Instead, Microsoft released a mobile Lync client which: does not have VOIP calling (everything is a call back service over the mobile network); does not have video capabilities to or from the device; does not have document sharing capabilities; does not have the ability to dial numbers from the Microsoft cloud-based Lync service.

“What Microsoft released this week is not a mobile UC client at all. It is at best an IM and presence client with a call back service.”

Smith goes on to extol Jabber’s UC capabilities across the PC, Mac, tablet and smartphone. Read the full blog post here.

Microsoft’s release of OneNote and Lync onto non-Windows platforms is something to applaud in the name of choice. Also worth applauding is the tension building between Cisco and Microsoft as increasingly important unified communications features go mobile.

Competition is always good for the customer and everyone loves a good rivalry. Expect Cisco and Microsoft to trade more punches in 2012.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson responded to this blog post via e-mail:

“We’re focused on delivering the best productivity experience across devices, and our approach is unique because we’re delivering a unified approach to mobile unified communications. Lync mobile clients feature:

  •  One client per platform — not multiple clients — allowing users to connect with federated and corporate contacts through IM, email, conferences or calls. 
  • A single server software role, not multiple backend systems, simplifying deployment, management and operations for IT staff.
  • No requirement to use a VPN — we’ve had many customers tell us directly that they do not allow VPN access via mobile device.
  • No additional license fees to utilize our mobile apps.”