Hi friends. Remember me?
You may have heard over the years that I am, in fact, an unashamed Apple fanboy. Though to be honest I don’t think its the same anymore without Steve but thats for another post. However, until recently, being said Apple fanboy meant that one had to suffer with a, well lets just say “less than optimal” Lync\Skype for Business experience on a Mac. The client has been many much maligned over the years for the clunky and dated interface
and the huge lack of “parity” with the Windows desktop client. Oh, and one irony, I wrote the Lync for Mac 2011 chapter in the just released Skype for Business Unleashed book which will soon be irrelevant 🙂 My chapter, not the book, the book you should buy, nay MUST buy. With extra copies just in case. One for the lake house also. (Note as a contributing author I made nada, I don’t even get a free freaking copy WTF is that about?) Lets move on….
At Microsoft Ignite 2016, Microsoft had a session (BRK2070) detailing the current status of the Skype for Business Mac client as well as the roadmap for release and further updates over time. This article is a recap of that session and some items I thought were important to highlight. There have been several posts from around the community detailing the features and overall design to the Skype for Business for Mac client but in this session we got to see the final design language and a “feature complete” version. Those of you in the skype preview program know that Microsoft has been staggering the updates to the preview client, and adding features with these releases.
So here we go.
The Skype for Business for Mac client has an all new interface, and in many ways looks like a “native” Mac client. The client was developed using Apples Swift platform, so it has been developed in the most current technology available on the Mac platform (Finder sure as hell isn’t, but I digress). The Skype for Business for Mac client shares the same “stack” as the iOS and Android clients, and so is more of a mobile client than a desktop client, which until recently with the preview client was a major issue, but more on this later. In addition, it uses H.264 for video and SILK for audio; all hail the 21st century! From the BRK2070 deck:
Whats important here to understand is that because of these OS-level dependencies, the OS X revision must be at least OS X 10.11 or higher (El Capitan) to support the Skype for Business for Mac client. Since we just 10.12 (Sierra) last week, I assume there will mer many organizations still on a version older than 10.11. So get upgrading if so 🙂
The Money Shots:
I’m soooo fancy…you already know-oh
That’s the wine talking….
From the BRK2070 deck:
Overall Style “language”
Conference Multi-view Video (Note only 4 gallery view windows, not 5 like the PC client.
Contact card. Sexy.
We can see the interface has evolved quite nicely from its troglodytic 1st cousin (2011 client). It also shares a lot of the same UX feel with the current Office for Mac. Good stuff in my opinion.
I mentioned earlier that the Skype for Business for Mac client is essentially a mobile client in its architecture. It is a UCWA\UCMP client, not a SIP client. As such, during preview it was discovered early on that it behaved more like the Skype\Lync mobile clients in that it was hard coded to always look for the HTTPS lyncdiscover.company.com record ONLY, and would not fail down to lyncdiscoverinternal.company.com to connect directly to a pool. What this meant is that the preview client essentially has to hairpin on the external reverse proxy interface-PERIOD. No other scenarios worked and deploying into an organization where hairpin wasn’t possible was a major beef. So happily we found out this week that….
The Skype for Business for ac client now uses the same behavior as the Windows desktop client in terms of the autodiscover process:
Now keep in mind that this still means that since it’s possible that your Macs do not have your root CA in their keychain and you are using internally signed certs for your pool, you will have issues if you don’t work through this. But its huge that you aren’t forced to hairpin for the Skype for business for Mac desktop client now.
Another nugget of goodness to come out of the session was around support for the Skype for Business for Mac client. The preview builds have had a “collect logs” button in preferences that creates a zip file with some logs and trace files. It would be col if you could open these in snooper would it not? Well in the preview builds, no dice. However, there will be a new version of snooper that will allow you to open these client traces. This is awesome and will help a lot when troubleshooting SfB for Mac client issues.
The Great: “HELP, I’ve fallen and i can’t get up”: E911
E911 support will be in GA, which is scheduled to be late October. We also see that the last in the last preview release, coming “next week”, voice and calling will be available as well as group video call view, call control etc.
The Not So Good:
There are a lot of things that will be missing at RTM. Some may not a be a big deal for you, others may flip out.
– Application Sharing
– Meeting Recording
– 1:1 Desktop Sharing
– PPT Upload and Viewing
– No support for Panoramic Video (on roadmap).
and as you can see, there are others.
The likely to give some of you a heart attack:
PCHAT PCHAT PCHAT…where are thou PCHAT? Many users in the post session Q&A asked if PCHAT would be supported in the client. You can almost see the look of tortured relief as the presenters knew it was going to be asked and also knew the answer that no one that uses PCHAT wants to hear. You know what I’m going to say next right? No support at RTM and lets be honest most likely it never will be (thats me saying that). PCHAT is in “sustain mode” as part of Skype for Business Server 2015 and as we know, is on-prem only. I suspect there will be something to replace it for SfB Online at some point, but even if there is another on-prem SfB server release, I would expect that if PCHAT is part of it, it will be exactly the same as it has been for years. So there you go.
One additional item to point out is that if you are in the Skype for Business preview program you have seen that the updates to the Mac client have been inbound and not part of the Office for Mac auto update process. This will change going forward updates Skype for Business for Mac client will come in through this process. This is great because changes can be made at a better cadence IMO. Note though that if you are using the preview client you will need to uninstall it. Also the 2011 client will coexist, it will not be “upgraded” or uninststalled when the SfB Mac client is installed.
Please look at the deck at the troubleshooting section as a lot of items like log locations and some really useful OS X specific terminal commands will definitely help with troubleshooting issues with the client when released. I thought this was huge because a lot of the deep down “plumbing” of the Mac Lync 2011 client was never really well documented and I even learned a few things from this.
And know you know. Like I said earlier, really great session, and though some may look at the new client as less than perfect, it’s most definitely a huge leap forward for the Mac platform. Happy SfB users=Happy admins. On any platform.