Friday, November 20, 2015

Mac for Skype for Business Client News

The "Mac for Skype for Business" (what a mouth-full!) client is around the corner, sort of, and we finally got some details today. The Skype for Business Video Cast shared many details about what is on the horizon in today's episode. In the presentation, we got some screenshots of the client's look and feel, and a few details around timelines. Let's break this down below:

What We Know Now

So, the details that we have now that we did not have before seem to be centered around the aesthetics of the client, and timelines, vague as they may be. For the look and feel of the client, Matthew Landis (@matthewlandis) did a great job capturing some screenshots during the video cast, and you can take a look on his blog:

One of the cool things that stood out to me is having the control buttons float over the video feed itself, giving more of the screen real estate to the video, without fumbling for the controls. This is an improvement from even the latest and greatest PC client. It seems that Microsoft is really trying to establish that they are making Mac users 1st-class citizens in the Skype for Business arena. This is wise, as they have really begun to alienate many Mac users, and even entire organizations because of subsets of Mac users, simply because this client has been neglected for so long.

Now, for timelines, we have estimates as specific as Quarters, but no more granular than that. The part that I am really disappointed about is that from the rumors I had previously heard, we should have been getting a new Mac client in Q4 2015. It looks like we are looking at next year, though. Check out the below schedule:

  • Q1 2016 - Nominations for Preview Program
  • Q2 2016 - Technical Preview Program
  • Summer 2016 - General Availability. 
So, would appear that the general public will not have an updated Mac client for nearly 6 more months. Not the best news ever. Yeah, the client looks like it will be pretty, and it also sounds like a lot of effort is being put into it being very stable, but 6 months is a long time in technology. That also puts on a lot of pressure to make sure they get this right, and that it truly is extremely stable once it is in GA.

What We Still Don't Know

Ok, there is one thing I am going to focus on for this section, and they even touched on it in the episode: Mac client support for PERSISTENT CHAT. Now, to be fair, they did fess up about the fact that this first release of the product will likely NOT provide support for Persistent Chat capabilities. I repeat, do NOT hold your breath hoping for Persistent Chat support in the first release of the Skype for Business Mac client. So, that begs the question, are there at least plans to add it in as an update, much the way they mentioned plans to update the client with Video-Based Screen Sharing at a later date? Of course, there was no comment on that, and so we are still left in the dark about whether that functionality will ever become a reality for Mac users. *SIGH* And this has left a lot of room for the rise of tools like Slack within larger organizations, or other competing products like IRC.

In Conclusion...

At any rate, at least we have some real details on the upcoming client, and it is really slick. Sadly, it is still a ways off, and will not likely deliver on missing features at GA. My thoughts? If Microsoft really wants to prove that Mac users are 1st-Class citizens in the Skype for Business arena, a more feature-consistent experience needs to be delivered across the enterprise, for ALL mainstream OS types. Yes, even a solution for Linux users, even if it is 100% WebRTC-based. Your thoughts?

Stay techy, my friends!


  1. Very slick new Mac client. I expected it to be released before the end of this year, so having it pushed another 1 or 2 quarters is pretty disappointing. And no initial Persistent Chat at release? Ugh. Yes Slack will continue to fill in that gap and dominate.

    1. Yeah, I am right there with you. Expecting an end of year release, and having it pushed back till next summer is quite disappointing. Especially knowing that it still will not have PC (most likely) at that point! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Not exactly on topic but we're struggling with the lack of persistent chat in Office 365 overall. Slack is slowly permeating the environment to fill the gap and creating confusion as a result (not to mention EXPENSIVE). Has MS gave ANY roadmap towards seeing in the Skype for Business online?

    1. Good question. As far as I know, this is not part of the Skype for Business Online roadmap, though I could be wrong. What I have heard from most people on the topic, including Microsoft employees, is to look into using Private Groups in Yammer to fill the Persistent Chat gap. Sadly, this is not always an option for everyone, nor is it a 1-for-1 alternative. Unfortunately, I have seen Slack and other similar tools slowly work themselves into other orgs as well, to fill this gap for their Mac users. A shame, really.

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