Skype for Business on the Mac Client

For the first time in a long time, the Skype for Business Product Group has written a new product from the ground up. The people developing this product are the same group that developed the iOS software, so you know the product will be stable and tailored to the Mac user experience, unlike the current Mac 2011 client which was basically written by a Windows developer and told “good luck”.

The Mac Client uses the Unified Communications Management Platform (UCMP), which is the same platform used by all the mobile devices, so basically, the Mac client will be treated like a mobile client from a Skype for Business Standpoint.

A timeline of the Mac Client in Skype for Business

So why is this taking so long to do? Unlike the previous builds (and builds of other software), Microsoft is taking this slow and steady with a phased approach. This means that releases are given to selected partners, customers, and engineers to stomp on, test, and run through the gauntlet. Some developers are fixing the bugs spotted in the test phase, while other developers start working on the next. They have made this an interactive experience, which will ensure that before the next phase is released, the previous one is stable. So by the time we get to the release, we have a reliable product that can be given to customers and said with certainty, “Yes, you can use Skype for Business with your Macs and you will be happy with your experience.”

So what exactly are the phases?

There will be three phases throughout the release, which will include multiple builds:

Phase 1 – Meeting Tag, Meeting Join, Full screen video and Desktop Sharing

Phase 2 – Instant Messaging, Presence, Contacts and more

Phase 3 – Telephony Features

Phase 1 has been completed, and Phase 2 has started. At this rate, I would expect Phase 3 in a few months, with a potential release date, I would guess, near the end of the year.

But as noted above, every Mac and Skype for Business topology is different, so careful attention to bugs must be given to ensure the best user experience in addition to the mandatory minimum requirements

  • Lync Server 2013 Cumulative Update 1 (because this is the first version to support UCWA, part of UCMP)
  • Skype for Business Server 2015
  • Skype for Business Online
  • Any Mac hardware running OS X El Capitan (now that is Microsoft saying ANY…)

What it takes to get things started

These are the two header versions:

HttpHeader:User-Agent LyncForMac/16.0.1596.0000 (Mac OSX 10.11.3)

HttpHeader:User-Agent SfBForMac/16.0.1999.0000 (Mac OSX 10.11.4)

Now, you need allow the client to run:

$x = [guid]::NewGuid()

New-CsClientVersionPolicyRule -Parent Global -RuleId $x -Description “SfBForMac” -Action Allow -MajorVersion 16 -UserAgent “SfBForMac

The user must be enabled for Mobility and allowed to use IP Audio and Video.  Odds are though that if you have Macs already deployed, this is already done.

But now the ugly part…known issues that developers are currently fixing

RDP and Multi-Monitor Support Users can consume desktop sharing with quite a few builds, with a  recent capability to share their desktop from the Mac and all of their monitors. But an interesting issue occurs when consuming an application shared from a Windows user – the Mac client ends up seeing a large black area on the desktop and just the application. This is more noticeable if the presenter is on a two-monitor setup.

Meeting Rejoin If you join a meeting with desktop sharing already underway, you’re not going to get the invite to that modality. So you may stumble into a meeting a few minutes late and not be able to view the presenter’s share. To work around this, you could ask the presenter to stop sharing and restart sharing.

We’ve also seen if the customer has network issues, the client will not aggressively reconnect to a meeting. The best way to work around this is to close the application, relaunch, and rejoin the meeting.

Group Video Calling This feature is coming soon, so the entire video experience with active speaker and multiple users in a meeting is changing.

Proxy issues Some challenges with proxies.  Builds after 16.0.1839 should have all of these ironed out.

Joining an external meting You must be federated, no support for anonymous join.

Meeting Invite Notification No notification that you’ve been invited to a meeting.

But as noted above, the best minds who put together iOS are aggressively fixing all issues, so stay tuned for the latest and greatest on Skype for Business in the Mac client!

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