Cisco and Skype Technology Working Together

I can’t share the whole screen but yesterday we supported a town hall style call with a combination of Cisco TelePresence and Skype for Business. It was very well received and there are many more planned. The Cisco Telepresence end points combined with Skype for Business (with Acano in the middle) prove a good combination. Not only is it a high quality experience it is also very cost effective – no per minute charges.

A few quick points:

  • Great quality VC unit with an ideal speaking/presenting position
  • Skype for Business (S4B) provided the access for participants to listen in
  • S4B also provided excellent meeting controls, especially the ability to mute all, without mute all these meetings can be very difficult to manage
  • S4B also provides the ability for the participants to ask questions via the IM
  • Share desktop or programs is the only supported way to share content. Uploading slides, whiteboarding and polls are not supported
  • If you were concerned that your S4B infrasturcure isn’t scaled to meet the demand or the town hall had over 250 people this same format works in Skype Broadcast
  • Be careful on Acano 1.8 there is a bug that if you mute the VC room it will drop out of the call – this has been fixed in 1.9

MAC Skype for Business…almost here

Next month we will hopefully see the long awaited launch of the first genuine Lync or Skype for Business client for a MAC. The current Lync for MAC client is rooted in the OCS client of many years ago and has many issues which have been documented/

The story of the MAC client is a classic case study in how you have to factor in the (important) minority when you deploy communication technology.

Independent and passionate individuals in the Lync/Skype community have long lobbied Microsoft for a first class MAC experience.  In the pre Satya Nadella days the lobbying largely fell on deaf ears. I still remember the audible grown in Redmond during an airlift event for Lync 2010 when the Lync product team announced Lync would be ‘best and first on Windows desktop and mobile’. Microsoft often defended the lack of investment in MAC with the argument that their telemetry highlighted over 95% of clients to access a Lync/Skype server would be Windows rather than MAC.  If I were being cruel I might say that’s because there were many people trying to access the Lync/Skype server but the MAC client crashing so frequently prevented them from doing so and affecting the overall numbers.

The issue with the 5% of MAC users is that they are almost certainly always senior management. Not only does it create an unnecessary embarrassment for IT to have to defend the Lync MAC client to the most senior non-technical people in their organisation it cripples a crucial deployment tool – the senior management email endorsing that their teams use Skype for Business in their day to day life – including telephony. It’s a difficult conversation within the deployment project team to seek the sponsorship of a Skype for Business deployment when the senior manager is constantly having to reload or update a client based on 10 year code.

Fortunately Microsoft now commit to provide a consistent experience on desktop and mobile across Windows, iOS and OSX. There is still ground to make up for Microsoft to achieve such a commitment. We’ve seen a limited iOS Skype for Business app and constant URL issues with iOS updates and we are yet to see the full generally available MAC client and how it interacts with the real world challenges of daily Skype for Business usage. Hopefully there is not long to wait now to see if Microsoft can remove a fairly large obstacle in Skype for Business deployment.