Microsoft Lync PBX alternative to be generally available November 17

Microsoft officials have yet to make the formal release-to-manufacturing announcement, but they did say that Microsoft's Lync Server 2010 will be generally available on November 17.

Microsoft officials have yet to make the formal release-to-manufacturing announcement, but they did say that Microsoft's Lync Server 2010 will be generally available on November 17.

Update (November 2): It turns out Lync Server 2010 won't be generally available on November 17, as a Microsoft representative originally said. In a November 2 blog post, Microsoft officials said the GA date is going to be December 1. The 180-day trial version of the software will be available on November 17.

Lync is the new brand name for the products formerly known as "Office Communications Server." Lync is Microsoft's PBX alternative. It combines into a single product corporate instant-messaging, conferencing and presence capabilities. There will be Standard and Enterprise versions of the product, as well as a Microsoft-hosted Lync Online service -- which will be part of its Office 365 bundle due out in 2011. (Office 365 is the new brand name for Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, for those trying to follow the bouncing balls....)

Microsoft made a near-final Release Candidate (RC) test build of Lync available in September. At that time, company officials told me that the company was holding Lync pricing constant with the current Office Communications Server pricing.

More recently, spurred by questions by readers, I asked again about Lync pricing, which Microsoft unveiled in late September. Some readers noted that Microsoft had added a new client access license (CAL) to the Lync line-up that they feared would result in them paying more, as they would need more than one CAL per user to get all of Lync's functionality.

It looks like their fears are justified -- although Microsoft officials say there will be a grandfathering clause to protect those who had access to the "voice workload" as part of the current version of Office Communications Server. They will be allowed to get that workload for no extra charge with Lync, officials said.

Here's the answer I received back from a spokesperson when I asked about a possible price increase:

"The new (Lync 2010) product includes a lot more features than were previously included in the product. So to say that the new Plus CAL makes Lync way more pricey is not accurate because of all the additional features – the goal was not to increase the price of the product, but to give customers a flexible way to choose features they needed/wanted – a la carte style .

"In the Lync Server 2010 release, the team optimized their licensing to enable purchasing flexibility what wasn’t available in OCS 2007 R2. To accomplish this, they enhanced the AVW conferencing experience and reduced the price of the Enterprise CAL by 23%.

"Additionally, they introduce the Plus CAL which included enhanced Enterprise Voice Telephony features. These changes allow customer to leverage a single unified communications platform AND chose which features of Lync Server are relevant to them and consider other features when their organization is ready.

"Enterprise CALs and Plus CALs are additive—they are sold as a supplement to the Standard CAL. This means that to enable Standard CAL features for a user, the user must be licensed with just the Standard CAL. To use either the Enterprise CAL or the Plus CAL features, the user must be licensed with the Standard CAL and either the Enterprise CAL or the Plus CAL. To enable all features, a user must be licensed with all three CALs."

The three CALs for Lync Server 2010 will be:

  • Standard CAL, which covers instant messaging and rich presence (IM/P) features. It provides users with real-time presence and enhanced IM along with PC-to-PC audio and video communications. Additionally it provides users with authenticated attendee experience for internally hosted conferences.
  • Enterprise CAL, which offers the audio, video, and Web conferencing features. It provides users the ability to create, moderate, and join conferences for collaboration with both internal and external users.
  • Server 2010 Plus CAL offers enterprise voice telephony features. It provides high-quality voice and other related features to users anywhere with an Internet connection across IP phones, PCs, and desktop applications.

Microsoft is holding a Lync launch event on November 17 in New York City. Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President of the Microsoft Office Division at Microsoft, and Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President of the Office Communications Group, are slated to attend, as are Microsoft customers and partners.

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