We all have used to love Skype for it’s superior call quality for years now, as we all know making calls to friends, colleagues, customers and others allows a better flow of communication. How does Microsoft enable us to continue to use the best communication tools for consumers and businesses?
I have to admit that it felt great for Microsoft to be able to get Skype from its not so natural home at eBay, and for once not let Google be able to buy companies just as they can (we all know they have a record in buying technology compared to own R&D). But how did this fit into the whole client experience? We are all Skype users and those of us who have used Lync, or its presessors (myself since LCS/OCS) are a bit confused about the different brands and their lack of co-existence.
We who where happy with Lync being updated to support Skype calls from a regular Lync client suddenly realized that it was more of a pain to explain to our users that, well yes it sort of works but to be able to reach out to a Skype user we need to
- Deploy an PIC integration with Microsoft
- All your contacts needs to get an Microsoft Account
- Your contacts need to let you know your new Microsoft Account ID
- You need to add them (again in Lync),
- The Skype user needs to accept your invite
- Then you will be able to call
And of course video does not work, of course you cant share your screen, or do a presentation, or anything else you expect just to work as long as your on Lync. So we was really hoping the brand merge would also improve the story we are telling all our clients, customers, friends that now Skype for Business is actually Skype+Lync all together.
How is the user experience as of today?
With the new update to Skype for Business server we are able to search the Skype catalogue for contacts, that allows us to add friends by just searching for their Skype ID a huge improvement by itself.
It seems that they have almost done what we thought would happened from the beginning, that every skype user will get a SIP adress on the skype.com domain, now Microsoft has created an skypeids.net domain and added that as an SIP domain for Skype users without Microsoft ID. I can now search the huge Skype database for users and add them, just waiting for someone to write a tool that reads my Skype (consumer) contacts list and send a invite from my Skype (Business) account and I can get rid of my consumer client for good.
If your on the latest windows Skype (consumer) client you can make a video call to once Skype for Business user, and the other way around. But no other features works, no screen sharing or other features. However if your a mobile user like myself its not possible to make a video call from the Skype (consumer) mobile client, that is Windows Phone, iOS or Android, on that subject we still miss the feature of adding contacts from your mobile device skype for business client, so finding a new contact while your mobile was out of the scope for Microsoft.
Continue the user experience we still lack the seamless integration between the clients. Lets say I invite a bunch of people to a Skype for Business meeting, I schedule the meeting in outlook as I normally do, send out the invite and waiting for people to join once the meeting is scheduled to start. Now one of my clients that should join the meeting is happy to see that the invite includes the word Skype so he or she opens Skype and click on the “Join meeting” link, so the browser starts and re-directs the user to the meet webpage, however the Skype client never joins the meeting as that is not an option today, as I user that could be somewhat confusing, of course the experience it more rich in the browser (with the plugin, that however does not seems to work in IE10 on Windows 10) where you have the option to see slides, screen sharing, votes along other. But its not an easy sale to the IT department to say well you have Skype but Skype does not work as we have Skype for business.
My favorite must be the two clients, I understand that this is not easy as Skype (Consumer) client is free but the Skype for business client is part of office and is by far not free (even if its included in Office Pro and yes there is a Lync basic client that is free, not sure if that supports the Skype skin yet).
How will this end?
I fully understand the transition that Microsoft is undergoing here, and I’m sure engineers work on the interop ability with Skype, its not that easy to support enterprise grade codes with more consumer friendly ones if you want to care about quality instead of quantity as some others do. Microsoft needs to respect the legacy that customers have in already invested infrastructure for their Unified Communications platforms, at the same time we are facing a world where companies adopt to consumer products. However we do not want to create more uncertainty for the corporate world, I’ve already seen end users raised an issue why company X now will support Skype, but still does not give support for it in the corporate IT policy, now IT needs to “sell” the idea of Skype for Business to their end users. It would make sense if Microsoft publicly explained their Unified Communications strategy moving forward to smooth out the transition over time.