Bridge Communications

Friday, April 17, 2015

Skype for Business Client Update - The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Well we all survived the first week of life using the new Skype for Business client.  Here are my impressions of what I think is good, bad, and ugly about the new look, and operation.  First let me say, that on the whole I am a big fan of the change, and I understand completely the business reason to gravitate toward the household name, better codec, etc.  So before I begin, a tip of the cap to the folks at Microsoft for their hard work in this step one, of a great and promising transition.  As someone who writes software and runs a software company, I can completely appreciate the hard work and vision involved in every step of this process.  None of the decisions to make changes of this magnitude to an existing customer base are ever taken lightly.  With that here are my impression;

The Good.

1.  Easy Transition - The combination of the new look, with all the familiar functions made the transition fairly easy most users.  This is good, as the alternative may have soured IT pros, and delayed adoption.

2.  Tabbed Conversations - The update here is great.

You can have more of them in less space, and easily see who sent you a message you may have missed with an orange indicator and even part of the message in some cases.

This is a nice update to the GUI, and one that makes Skype4B easier for the average user to get used to IMO.

3.  Toast Position - New setting options.

The ability to move the toast message/call notifications is a major update feature I absolutely love.

I have six screens on my primary PC and the notifications always seemed to be right on top of what I was trying to work on.

4.  The Sounds - I love them, but I will also list them in the bad column because of the user complaints.  Some people aren't happy unless they are unhappy.

5.  The Emoji Update - Sadly the best part of the new client for me was finally being able to use a face-palm emoji when asked a stupid question.  Yay!

6.  Pasting of pictures - The new way it transfers pasted images in the conversation box is an improvement for both ends of the conversation.  This also seems improved in the persistent chat windows, although users can't seem to open them quite right in P Chat windows on the receive side.

The Bad

There isn't too much here to complain about so I am going to list a couple things I have heard from users.

1.  The Sounds - Personally I like the new sounds, but several users have already complained about them being too different.  Again I like them, and thought the refresh was needed.

2.  Pasting In Group Conversations - I was really hoping for something here, where a simple screen shot could be easily pasted in a group conversation.  Unlike a regular conversation, or persistent chat, the paste seems to be converted to an attachment and made downloadable as meeting content.  For geeks like us this is fine, but for the average user this is too many steps and makes this function almost unusable, when someone smarter pastes an image into the mix.

3.  Memory Leaks - One thing I have seen several times, and you see it with Lync also, is ballooning memory.  This will happen on PCs that don't even use the software, just having it sit there idle.

The Ugly

Now I have a different perspective than most here so again, this is only my opinion and I hope it reaches the right person to make this product what I believe it can be.

1.  The Status - User presence status has evolved over time here is a timeline from 2010, 2013 and S4b.

I completely get the Skype folks like their interface and wanted to modernize to it.  For most people with eyes you can see 2010 was easy to see, fairly ugly, but usable.  2013 made it fit the metro push better and honestly blends better with what I have seen on the universal app side, although the later windows 10 preview updates now have rounded user pictures as well.  Skype4b is a little harder to see at a distance, for me I stand at work and look at 11 screens so the status is not 12 inches from my face.  If the new rounded version is the future so be it, but then why not embrace it in the entire program, and the entire office family then?

You can see even Skype for business is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis, showing square 2013 style contact cards off the rounded icon main page.

2.  The Controls - As a developer this is the most important issue to me, and the least important to any of the end users.  Microsoft is a software company, and a model for software companies.  The way they empower developers by making their software controllable and able to integrate into other apps, keeps them head and shoulders above any other software company.  Lync/Skype4B is no exception.  The 4 major sdks all work fine with the updated client, and that is great news for developers.  The WPF and Silverlight controls however, seem to be the forgotten red headed step children. They are a great and easy way to add Lync/Skype functions to any application.  The problem is they are still templated to Lync 2010.  This wasn't such a big deal in 2013, because overriding the template and getting rid of the gradient color for a solid line wasn't a big change.  I seriously doubt that any developer has the time to try to re-template to match the Skype style on their own.

So my plea to Microsoft is, please update these controls, you are most likely just re-templating the Lync.exe in this update, so apply the same to the WPF and Silverlight controls for your loyal developers out there.

If anything I have experimented with something round with a crescent like status, that I believe would be an improvement to both the consumer and business versions of Skype.

compared to the new style I believe this would be easier to see and less confusing to existing users.

Modernizing the developer tools will make us all look good and continue the push toward the client look you want.

That's it for this weeks post.  Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Doug Routledge, C# Lync, Skype for Business, SQL, Exchange, UC Developer  BridgeOC
Twitter - @droutledge @ndbridge

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