Yesterday we kicked off a global conversation about how Microsoft is reinventing productivity—across the board—to create a world where people can truly make the most of their time and lead more fulfilling lives. Connecting people across all of life’s moments – to talk, to share, to collaborate – is at the heart of helping people make the most of every moment. To that end, and for our business customers, we are bringing together the familiar experience and user love of Skype with the enterprise security, compliance, and control from Lync to create the most loved and trusted communications platform for doing things together.

A decade ago, Skype broke down the distance barrier by bringing people together from all over the world. It forever changed the way people shared their lives by getting friends and family together to celebrate special moments and create extraordinary bonds. Today, Skype is so much more. It’s used by more than 300 million people for messaging, calling and sharing. It lets people and groups connect in more spontaneous ways across multiple platforms to have fun and get things done. From desktop, to mobile to TV, it’s for communicating throughout the day, every day. Skype is a universal symbol of togetherness.

For the past 10 years, Microsoft has invested in the transformation of business, disrupting the status quo with Lync, by simplifying and unifying all of the different tools people used to communicate for work. We made Lync a core part of Office to make it easy for people to connect with others to get work done. Lync means the freedom to work anywhere. It’s like tapping someone on the shoulder to say “let’s chat” no matter where you are in the world. Colleagues meet together and make decisions in an instant and IT Professionals rest easy knowing their end-users are supported by a secure platform for that they manage and control. Today, thousands of organizations, large and small, count on Lync for voice, video and conferencing.

In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365. We believe that Skype for Business will again transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business.

We’re really excited about how Skype for Business takes advantage of the strengths of both Skype and Lync. For example, as you can see in the screenshots, we’re adopting the familiar Skype icons for calling, adding video and ending a call. We’ve added the call monitor from Skype, which keeps an active call visible in a small window even when a user moves focus to another application.

At the same time, Skype for Business keeps and improves on all of the capabilities of Lync, including content sharing and telephony. For example, transferring a call now takes only one touch or click instead of three.

We’re also making it easier to connect to people everywhere. Lync already offers instant messaging and audio calling with Skype users. Skype for Business adds video calling and the Skype user directory making it possible to call any Skype user on any device.

Current Lync Server customers will be able to take advantage of these capabilities simply by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their datacenters. No new hardware is required. For Office 365 customers, it’s even simpler. We’ll do the required updates. And because communications is mission-critical, this release meets a new bar for reliability and performance.

Microsoft is already a market leader in communications. I’m confident that no other company in the world can connect people like Microsoft can. Stay tuned for more updates on Skype for Business and how we reimagine the technologies people use to communicate. If you’re a current customer, ask your Microsoft sales specialist or partner about Skype for Business and follow our social channels (Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn) for updates.

Gurdeep Pall, Corporate Vice President, Skype