There’s an old journalism weather cliché that goes “rain failed to dampen ….”
Here’s another: In Calgary on Wednesday a heavy snow storm failed to smother Microsoft Canada Lync Conference, pulling in 400 of the 480 people who registered for the day-long event.
“Calgary quite a big market for us,” said Microsoft Canada president Janet Kennedy, because the oil and gas industry is booming.
The conference was focused on enterprise-sized customers, with presentations from the city of Calgary, which used Lync for communications after extensive flooding earlier this year knocked out its PBX, TransAlta Utilities, Telus Corp. and Smart Technologies, a Calgary company that has adopted its digital whiteboards to Lync.
There were no Lync product announcements, although there was some discussion of the upcoming integration of Skype video into the unified communications platform. Skype audio is already there.
So, Kennedy said, it was more a day about how customers can leverage Lync. “It was fun for me because instead of me talking we had our customers talking about what they’re doing.”
For example, she said, a TransAlta official talked about how the power generator chose Lync to replace its PBX system for voice service, but staff are increasingly using it for broader communications including video calls or for field workers to send images back to managers.
Attracting large customers is nothing new for Kennedy — who was appointed to her post here Oct. 1 — a 12-year Microsoft [Nasdaq: MSFT] veteran who had been a regional vice-president for enterprise business in the U.S.
“From an enterprise perspective typically we start by talking about how much money (Lync) can save them, but once they get the concept the conversation quickly turns to innovation: ‘All these new inexpensive mobile devices connected to the Internet: What can we do?’”
Smart Technologies, for example has created what it calls a Smart Room System for Lync, a turnkey solution which includes one or two interactive touch screen monitors, a video camera, desktop microphones and a desktop administrating console all of which integrates with Lync. The solution began selling in March.
In an interview Scott Brown, president of Smart’s enterprise division, said a user can send out invitations to a video conference through Microsoft Outlook, with Lync providing the collaborative framework for adding remote participants and sharing documents.
The top dual-screen version costs $29,000.
Lync competes against UC suites from a wide range of companies including IBM, Avaya, Polycom and Cisco Systems. Its advantage is that it integrates into the Microsoft stack. A recent Forrester Research report noted it has the potential to become as ubiquitous in organizations for video as SharePoint is for team sales.