How are Skype and Skype for Business Coming Together?

The promise of bringing Skype together with Skype for Business (S4B), has a lot of voice and video communications enterprise staff pretty excited. They have been holding onto the promise for more than a year that Microsoft will make life seamless for them by bringing together the enterprise and consumer worlds of voice and video (V&V).

About a year ago, Gurdeep Pall, the Microsoft Corporate VP for Skype, said:

“We’re also making it easier to connect to people everywhere. Lync already offers instant messaging and audio calling with Skype users. Skype for Business adds video calling and the Skype user directory making it possible to call any Skype user on any device.”

But what has, or does, that promise hold for the enterprise?

Skype_for_Business_Secondary_Blue_RGBSure it will be nice for the directories to come together so anyone can find anyone else, and maybe there is now full connectivity at all levels (Presence to Video), but I don’t find much evidence of a seamless and full connection. (If you can point to real progress in this area, please leave comments below.)

I think it is still going to take some time.  And … in today’s world, time is more of the essence than ever before.

As I was searching online for more evidence of Skype and S4B coming together I found some interesting articles on what Microsoft was focusing on in the V&V market, and it didn’t really have much to do with Skype and S4B coming together.

Skype (Microsoft) seems to be focused in a new direction. Enabling V&V from your browser – if you are using Internet Explorer. From about a year ago:

“Together with the industry-leading expertise of Skype and Internet Explorer, we’re excited to announce development has begun on the ORTC API for WebRTC, a key technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the web a reality.

We aim to make browser-based calls more convenient by removing the need to download a plugin. It’s all about convenience – imagine you’ll be able to simply open IE and make a Skype call to friends, family, or get real-time support for that new device right from your browser.”[Emphasis added].

And stated in an article from three weeks ago on the Skype website called, “Skype for Web and Skype for – Update”:

“We’re thrilled about the exciting scenarios that ORTC APIs enable and we are proud to be one of the first to use these ORTC APIs in the Edge Browser.  The ORTC APIs will enable us to develop advanced real-time communications scenarios – like group video calls with participants all on different browsers and operating systems – using features like Simulcast and Scalable Video Coding (SVC), all while preserving the ability to easily interop with existing telephony networks.”

And finally very recently on the Skype for Business website, Microsoft said,

“The ORTC API preview for Microsoft Edge is the latest result of a close, ongoing collaboration between the Windows and Skype teams. Together we’re able to apply decades of experience building great web platforms to deliver some of the largest and most reliable real-time communications services for businesses and consumers. What does this mean for you? For developers, we’re providing new ways to build innovative real-time communications into your web-based experiences. For people using Skype and Skype for Business at work or at home, calls and meetings on the web will soon get even easier and more seamless.”

It looks like Microsoft is shifting its focus to a Browser based approach for their real-time communications connections.  Maybe this is in addition to the direction to bring Skype and S4B together?


What does all this mean?

  1. A new way to interoperate between Skype and S4B?
  2. Microsoft is changing paths or going down duel paths?
  3. Browser based apps win?
  4. All of the above?

The Market Waits for No-one

Browser based communications tools are not a new idea; WebRTC has been the poster child for this technology for some time and is gaining significant momentum. The path to using this technology is being forged by many tech companies and their customers.

There are over 210 companies now offering WebRTC based software products (  and the list is rapidly growing. WebRTC is a quiet revolution that is being incorporated in multiple channels of communications without fanfare:

  • Google uses WebRTC in Hangouts
  • Citrix uses it in their GoToMeeting product
  • Uberconference uses it in their global voice conferencing service
  • Norwegian Telco giant Telenor launched a popular video chat service ( on a WebRTC platform which has thousands of users worldwide
  • One of the world’s largest telecom operators, AT&T, has embraced WebRTC
  • In April, 2015, Facebook announced that it was ditching the agreement with Microsoft to use Skype for voice and video calling and going to WebRTC

The Business to Consumer (B2C) Market for Voice and Video Communications

Enterprise user departments are not waiting for IT solutions to enable V&V for their B2C customers. The leading enterprises have already brought their solutions to market. Here is an example from Barclays Bank:

In a previous blog, “Transforming the Healthcare Collaborative Ecosystem”, I pointed out how integrating V&V into healthcare processes is revolutionizing how things are done. You don’t need to wait for Skype and S4B to come together – the evidence is growing. In fact, by doing so you will be falling further behind the competition.

In the B2C market, using the native browser will be the way of the future for real-time voice and video and how Skype and S4B come together will only matter for enterprise internal communications. Microsoft knows that. That is why they are excited about their new direction.  It is worth noting that some independent Microsoft S4B developers already have an API in place to connect with S4B on the enterprise side and have enabled browser  based V&V chat for B2C applications.  Anywhere365 is a contact centre app for S4B that enables S4B contact centre agents to chat, have voice and video calls, as well as application share with the clients that are using their browser.  No need for the customer to have any particular client installed on their device.

Speed to market is what matters now – especially in B2C. Integrating voice and video into your consumer facing web applications has been done in as little as 2 months.

If you are still not convinced and want to wait for the integration of Skype and S4B for B2C V&V, ask yourself a couple of simple questions:

  1. Do you really want to have to ensure every consumer device has Skype on it to be able to connect to it? (It is simple to connect on a browser when your customer is on your website)
  2. What is your best case timeline for integrating a B2C voice and video communications based on the current Skype client?

If you check out some of the Microsoft articles I referenced above, you will note the push that Microsoft has for Microsoft Edge – their next generation browser – which I am sure, will be powerful. I think that long term, the proprietary Skype client will be moth balled in place of a more open browser experience.  However it actually turns out, I commend Microsoft for proactively positioning themselves with the browser voice and video capability.

The Skype brand will stick around, but today’s Skype client technology might not last.

What do you think?

Content Sharing Technologies Making Huge Strides

The word “Collaboration” is used to describe way too many tools that are part of a collaborative eco-system but do not define collaboration itself. Many of the vendors are calling their content sharing technology “collaboration technology”. But content sharing is only one aspect of collaboration and only for real-time collaboration.

People, Place and Technology are Coming Together like Never Before

Technological advances are catalysts for change in any business, and those changes are happening at a faster pace than ever before. Technology is transforming who we are able to work with and how we work with them, so it can no longer be considered an afterthought when designing the workplace.

Historically, the workplace is where people come together to work. Relating the importance of the “Place” to design so that people could work more effectively was a natural progression of thoughtful study and experimentation. Design, furniture and furnishing organizations have steadily advanced over the years to better understand the relationship between People & Place and to bring those findings to bear in their products and services.

Is True Collaboration a 2 Pizza Team Rule?

Jeff Bezos, Thomas Edison and Mark Zuckerburg have all had a common observation – smaller teams accomplish more. Far more, when it comes to creative or innovative work. So, what technology can turbo charge these smaller teams to be creative and innovative?

What Type of Space Do You Need?

Meeting rooms are where workspace and technology really come together. Room systems must be effective places to meet where both the physical and virtual world intersect seamlessly. They must contain the right mix of conferencing technologies to enable the required level of collaboration and this will naturally lead to innovation.

What Conferencing Technologies Should be Available in Our Meeting Rooms?

Using technology to bring people together over distance is more and more a common-place activity, but the number of options available to do that is mind-boggling. And getting clarity on a solution is hard. The process is critical and avoids a lot of wasted efforts and brings a cohesive approach to the technology roadmap your organization requires. The ET Group has helped many organizations through this process and we are honoured to represent the City of Toronto in their candidacy for the 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year Award.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room

Commercial grade video conferencing has long been about HD 1080p, QoS, MPLS networks, the right video conferencing codecs and all the other AV equipment that can accompany a video conferencing deployment.  But one of the most neglected investments has been and continues to be, screen real estate.

I find this ironic for two reasons.

First, “Big Screen TVs” have been driving the consumer TV market for the last few years.  Why? Because HD TV on a large screen is more engaging!  Most of us and most of our friends have big screen TVs.  The experience is larger than life and for live sporting and news events, the experience is often better than being there.

So, we have no problem investing in screen real estate for our personal viewing and we see the value it brings to the experience.

Secondly, the primary driver of early video conferencing adoption has been to avoid travel costs.  The theory being that people will have to travel less if they can meet using video conferencing.  But if the video conferencing deployment does not provide images that are large enough, then people will continue to have to travel because they won’t have a good enough experience from the video conferencing deployment.  Even though all the other video conferencing technical problems such as jitter, tiling, etc. may be solved.


Screen real estate is hugely important!

Here are the top 5 mistakes on screen real estate decisions that I consistently see in video conferencing deployments:

1.   The screen real estate is too small

What size screen to have in a meeting room is one of the key technical decisions in designing the AV components of a meeting room.  AV Designers are taught formulae to determine the optimal screen size.  In other words they are making it a technical decision.

Typically there are 2 dimensions considered:

a) The minimum size of display should be determined by the distance of the farthest away viewer, and

b) The closest participant should not sit so close to the screen so that it overwhelms them.  Like being in the front row of a movie theatre with a huge screen, you just can’t take all of the view in without moving your head. In addition, the brightness will stress you out over time.

 These technical measures are good for helping you figure out a minimum or maximum size for a screen in the room but they don’t consider the “Big Screen TV” factor.  Make the screens as big as you can to make the experience bigger than life.

2.   Trying to save money on the overall cost of the video conferencing solution by limiting the screen real estate.

I see over and over again an executive reviewing a proposed video conferencing deployment and is looking to save a few dollars.  Since most of the other components can’t be compromised, display screens are an easy target to save a couple of dollars.  This may have more to do with the historical cost of displays, but display prices have reduced more dramatically than any other component of a video conferencing deployment.

When you think about the amount of money that is invested to provide high quality commercial video conferencing – the network cost, codec cost, AV components and integration costs, trying to save a few dollars on screen size actually compromises the benefits of video conferencing experience. See this recent blog for more on the benefits of making the image “Bigger than Life”.

3.  Having only a single screen for room-based video conferencing

Without a doubt web conferencing (sharing content – WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc) is more prolific than video conferencing and most meeting rooms are used to share PC content in addition to any video conferencing capabilities.  Web conferencing can get a little confusing since you can share content using vendor video conferencing capabilities – see this blog article for more on this.

If the meeting room is designed with a single screen, sharing content will take precedence over seeing people.  So in a room with a single screen, the video portion will be relegated to a small corner of the screen or not be shown at all.  In either case the video portion of the meeting becomes pretty much useless.  The result is that all of the benefits of the visual experience are lost. This is another reason to have to travel for meetings because it won’t be the same as being there.   Avoid single screen deployments so video will not get relegated into the background.

4. Having multiple locations on a single screen

This mistake is a little less obvious and only comes into play when the call goes beyond a point-to–point call and has multiple locations in a video call – multipoint.  This mistake is also much more prevalent since most single codec deployments will combine the video streams from multiple locations into a single video stream.

But this practice causes the video images of the remote locations to shrink on the display, dramatically diminishing the value of the video images.  In fact, I know of customers who have deployed national video conferencing solutions that are not used for exactly this reason.  This is a very real problem.

I am planning a future blog article to provide more detail as well as some solutions to this problem – stay tuned.

5.   The image shown on the screen makes the participants too small

Although the video may be on the full screen, the participants are all really small. The image shown of the room is the whole room and in medium and large rooms the participants will all be very small.

This mistake is not the same as mentioned above when the actual video image becomes a small/tiny part of what is displayed on the screen.  This mistake has more to do with the camera view of the room you are in.  It is not really a problem with the screen size itself but the use of the screen to show the participants in the room.

The easiest ‘fix’ to this problem is to teach people how to use the zoom or to program in camera views that are automatically initiated when a person starts speaking, e.g. the person speaking hits a button that turns their microphone on and focuses the camera on them.  This solution works well in a room that is more geared to “Control Meetings”.

For free flowing, highly collaborative meetings the EagleEye II from Polycom provides a very innovative solution – check out my blog on eliminating the “Boardroom Bowling Alley”.

So the next time you are investing in collaboration rooms and technology, invest in screen real estate.  It will greatly increase the velocity of collaboration in your organization!

As always I am interested in hearing your views.  Please leave your comments and join in on the discussion.

What the Movies Can Teach Us About Real Time Collaboration…

What can we learn from the movie going experience that we can apply to connecting people in different locations? What can we do to make the experience richer or bigger than life? You can create a conferencing and collaboration experience that is bigger than life and is better than being there! The formula for increased collaboration in simple, get our Free guide now.

Getting Rid of the Boardroom Bowling Alley

The usability of video conferencing in a typical boardroom was dramatically enhanced in the last year, with Polycom’s announcement of the Eagle Eye Director II. Most video conferencing deployments in an existing boardroom are problematic. So what ends up happening is that the camera is pointed at the room from the front and is ‘zoomed out’ to capture the whole table. And this view never changes. People on the other end of the video conferencing call therefore see what can be called the ‘Boardroom Bowling Alley’ effect.