Microsoft’s debuted its unified communications platform Lync at a news conference today. Lync will go on sale December 1. Several big name companies like Boeing, Estee Lauder, France Telecom, Nikon and Orange are already using the solution according to Microsoft’s announcement. Microsoft will also offer Lync Live next year along with Office 365 and promises eventual integration with Kinect, Microsoft’s next-generation human-computer interface.

Lync, which aims to supplant PBX phone systems, integrates instant messaging, web-based video conferencing and phone calling. Like Google Voice, the system can forward calls to alternate numbers and serve as a central hub for communications activity.

According to Information Week, Verizon will offer UC and collaboration bundles in conjunction with Microsoft.

Lync, first announced in September, will compete with UC/VOIP vendors such as Avaya and Cisco.

The unified communications market is has been heating up this year. In September, Avaya partnered with Skype and Google began offering Voice to Google Apps customers on an opt-in basis. is currently rumored to be in talks to purchase web conferencing company Dimdim, inching it towards competition with Cisco and others.

According to Microsoft’s announcement, the company sponsored a Forrester study that found “Lync 2010 offers a 337% three year-risk-adjusted ROI, with a payback period of 12 months.” A review on No Jitter concluded that Lync is “far more” than a rebranding of Office Communications Server and makes Microsoft a real contender in the UC market.

The move fits with Microsoft’s current convergence strategy of integrating desktop, mobile and cloud experiences through solutions like SharePoint, Exchange and Office 365.