Those of you who already work in a corporate, education, or almost any business environment are already familiar with Microsoft Office, and perhaps already use Microsoft Lync in the workplace.  Lync provides the communication we so desperately need through a program suite that we are already familiar with, and is already integrated into most of our workplaces.  Lync 2013 will bring new features, and even improve on the ones we already love.

Lync 2013 will allow HD video and content sharing for multiple users at a time.  Through their video gallery you will be able to display up to five different participants’ video all at the same time.  Lync will automatically identify the active speaker, so you know who is talking about their video.  It will also give extended presenter controls allowing you to optimize the meeting to fit your audience size and let you choose what content you wish to be available for your participants.  It is fully integrated across office apps, allowing you to contact people no matter what program you are in.  Since Lync uses active Directory to pull user information, you can have all the users contact information in one convenient spot.  This is a much better solution than pulling from the phone number, especially when users have multiple phones, or sit at different desks.  OneNote can also be shared through Lync, allowing meeting participants and organizers to co-edit meeting notes directly through it without having to use outside applications.  These improvements will save tremendous amounts of time and increase productivity.

Lync 2013 has been fully designed with Windows 8 in mind, so if you are planning to upgrade your OS don’t worry about compatibility.  As many new devices are going to start coming out with Windows 8 pre-installed (especially mobile devices like tablets and phones), it’s very important that they all function correctly.  Both PC and Mac users will be able to take advantage of the Lync web app and use the multiparty HD video sharing, VOIP, and Powerpoint sharing.  Lync mobile will allow you to IM, make Lync calls or join meetings from a Windows phone, iOS or Android device, all with a single click. Devices’ working together smoothly is a keystone of smarter working and is essential for Lync’s success.

One of the most exciting additions to Windows 8 and Office 2013 is the integration of Skype into the OS.  Skype is one of the top softphone companies out there, and they were acquired by Microsoft last year for 8.5 billion dollars.  Lync 2013 will open a whole new communication channel to Skype users, allowing for cross communication.  Skype and Lync users will be able to communicate via an extension of Lync presence, instant messaging, and peer to peer voice.

Neither Office 2013 nor Lync 2013 have been given a release date yet, but there is a consumer preview available for download.  What changes are you looking forward to in the next versions of office? What would you like to see changed? Let us know in the comments!