The Skype for Business Client–What you Need to Know

The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity on the Skype for Business front. If you’ve been busy like me, this post will tell you just what you need to know, clear up some confusion, and get you started with the new Skype for Business client.

A Technical Preview of the new Skype for Business Client is Available

The most significant news is that a Technical Preview of the next release of the Lync client was made available. The new version is rebranded as the Skype for Business (“SfB”) client.  Here is what you need to know:

  • This is the Lync client under the covers, but it is available with a new optional UI skin that looks like the Skype Consumer client.
  • When it is officially released in April, the SfB client will be distributed via a Windows Update (a Cumulative Update in Office 2013).
  • When it is released, it is not known yet what the default UI skin will be (the new Skype look, or the Lync look).  There are registry key entries and a Lync server side setting that can control which UI is displayed.
  • Because it is the Lync client under the covers, it has the look and feel of the Skype consumer client but the security and management controls of the Lync client.
  • This Microsoft Office Support Article has some good links to get your users up and running with the SfB Preview Client – Skype for Business change management and adoption.
  • Do not confuse this release with the Skype for Business client experience in the Office 2016 Preview – which is a longer leading initiative that will not be released until the second half 2015.

Details of the Technical Preview

  • Download for North America: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-skype-for-business
  • Outside of North America: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter/dn917485
  • Noteworthy:
    • You’ll need to sign-in with a Microsoft Account
    • There is a 64 and 32-bit download – I recommend using the one that matches your Office Version
    • It is an update to the Lync 2013 client MSI.
    • It is a 270 Mb trial which expires May 1, 2015
    • I’ve had troubles downloading this in non-IE browsers (“HTTP Error 400. The size of the request headers is too long”). IE seems to work.
  • FAQ:
    • Can I run the Skype for Business Technical Preview with Office 2010?   Yes.
    • Can I run the Skype for Business Technical Preview with Microsoft Lync Server 2010?  Yes.
    • Can I run the Lync 2013 Client side-by-side with the SfB Client?   No – the SfB client is an upgrade to your existing Lync 2013 client (replaces it)

The new Skype for Business Client, Server, and Online service will be Generally Available in April.

  • This is essentially the release date for Skype for Business that we have been waiting for – not far off!

Office 2016 is available in preview is Available

  • Microsoft recently announced the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview.
  • Among other things, this preview contains a release of the Skype for Business experience that is different from the Skype for Business client being released in April and in Technical Preview today. It will not be released until the second half of 2015 as part of the next version of Office for Windows desktop.

More Information

There is a lot of information available on what the new SfB client UI looks like, changes in functionality from the current Lync client, and how to change the UI look-and-feel between Skype-mode and Lync-mode:

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