Almost there: Skype for Business inches forward


I remember vividly a couple years ago trying to participate in a product scoping meeting from my MacBook over Lync, the old name for Microsoft’s Skype for Business conferencing service in Office 365. The connection kept dropping, and linking up in the first place on anything but a Windows PC was problematic. We switched to another service and everything was fine.

A year later, we did some testing of the revised Lync/Skype for Business (both names were in use, depending on your platform). The clients outside of Windows were severely limited, and both the audio and video were problematic. So we stayed with that third-party service. Once again, we found , especially in a multiplatform environment such as ours (in some groups, Macs account for two-thirds of the computers).

In late 2016, Microsoft finally released new Skype for Business clients (no more Lync versions) for MacOS, iOS, and Android, and it updated the Windows one. We’d love to use Skype for Business instead of a third-party service, of course: We’re already paying for Skype for Business in our enterprise Office 365 plan, and the fact that it ties into our Exchange calendars, directories, and authentication is a real plus. If only it worked! Well, we thought, maybe this time.

The good news is, in initial testing, Skype for Business works, and not only in Windows.

, and many users legitimately will favor Apple’s or Samsung’s clients instead.

And the Skype for Business user interface is simply horrible. Figuring out how to initiate a call is unintuitive and inconsistent across platforms, as is finding contacts and adding people to a call or meeting. (Basically, you need to search by name or email address, except for contacts you’ve added to your favorites in Skype for Business—itself an unclear process—and those in Outlook Groups, an Office 365 service that works very poorly, when it’s even available, outside Windows.)


Skype for Business clients vary wildly in functionality and user interface. Does Microsoft really expect users to figure all this out? Top left: Windows; top right: MacOS; bottom: iPad (Android tablet looks the same).

Understanding the difference between a meeting and a call is a real puzzle, but the difference matters because screens can only be shared when in a meeting, not via direct call. That’s not a distinction any other conferencing tool I’ve tried makes.