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Logitech’s Microsoft Lync-powered hardware points to the potential of Office 365

With Microsoft having recently launched Office 365, its new cloud-based productivity suite, Logitech today announced a new series of webcams and headsets designed to take advantage of the software. Microsoft Lync, the platform powering Office 365, offers “unified communication,” or, in other words, no need for third-party video conferencing software like Skype or the kind of big-buck hardware normally used in the boardroom.

Logitech’s offering includes a quartet of webcams and a few headset and speakerphone options.At $149, the top-of-the-range B990 webcam has a 5-megapixel sensor capable of recording in 720p and stereo audio. On the other end, $79 gets you the Pro 9000 webcam, which has a lower-resolution 2-megapixel sensor. Logitech’s biggest draw in this hardware is that none of the webcams require installation software, and with Office 365, there’s no outside video-conferencing software needed either.

This integration points to the power of Office 365. The Office 365 suite offers networked productivity, like Google Apps, but bests Google in Microsoft’s support for hardware development. In essence, with Office 365 in the cloud and the Lync architecture powering it also running hardware, Microsoft can now offer video conferencing (as well as all of Office’s productivity functions) without installing software across an entire business’ network.

For outfits that find building an office network prohibitively expensive, or even for truly small businesses in which employees work mostly from their own computers, Microsoft now boasts a solution that has the flexibility of being in the cloud. And while there are other options that have been available longer, like Google Apps, Logitech’s release of Office 365 hardware is evidence that Microsoft has enough clout to put together an ecosystem that can best Google Apps.