Microsoft has released a nearly completed preview version of its next-generation communications server and associated software, which the company has collectively renamed as Lync.
This release candidate will be the final developmental release before the full release of the finished product, expected by the end of the year.
"Over the past five years we have been on a journey to transform communications with the power of software," said Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft corporate vice president for unified communications, in a statement.
The Lync setup will tie telephone calls with instant messaging and videoconferencing, so that users can easily span the conversation across these multiple channels.
The software has also been integrated with Microsoft Office 2010, Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, so that e-mail, calendaring, documents and other data from these platforms can be accessed from Lync.
Lync is an overhaul, expansion and renaming of a number of different Microsoft unified communications products. In terms of nomenclature, the upgraded OCS (Office Communications Server) is now known as Microsoft Lync Server 2010, the client-side Microsoft Office Communicator is now Microsoft Lync 2010 and Office Communicator Web Access is Microsoft Lync Web App.
The company is also planning a hosted version of the product, to be called Lync Online.
According to Microsoft, more than 120 organizations are testing beta versions of the software, through the company's Microsoft Technology Adoption Program. Also, about 30 Microsoft partners are preparing Lync-compatible products, such as phones, contact centers call recording software and routing services.