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Success with Skype: Room Service

In a Skype for Business team blog, Microsoft announced last week that an upgrade will bring the Skype for Business user interface to existing Lync Room Systems, effectively transforming existing rooms into Skype for Business Room Systems.

The new Skype for Business experience comes to existing Lync Room Systems by way of a Cumulative Update scheduled to be available Tuesday, Nov. 10. This Cumulative Update applies to all existing Lync Room Systems from Crestron, Polycom, and SMART Technologies. The update, which is almost entirely cosmetic in nature, replaces the light background with the darker Skype for Business "look and feel, as shown below.

The user interface for presenting a PowerPoint does not change. The video gallery gets a slightly darker background, effectively no change.

The Skype for Business team acknowledges that this is simply a visual change, writing, "The update does not change the functionality, but users will see a sleeker, darker design theme, attuned to large-screen viewing." I am left wondering, however, exactly how making the backgrounds darker will provide an experience "attuned to large-screen viewing."

The one very minor functionality change included in the Cumulative Update relates to handling of meetings marked as private. With tomorrow's update, the room admin can turn the room calendar subject line visibility on or off, via the console in Admin mode, under Options > Settings. Previously meetings marked as "private" would not display a subject line. Note that, according to the Skype for Business team, "the Admin UI under Options > Settings has undergone minimal design theme change--largely restricted to 'Lync' text being changed to 'Skype for Business.'" This is effectively only a "search and replace" type of name change.


Join Kevin at Enterprise Connect 2016, coming March 7 to 10, in Orlando, Fla., where he'll be presenting the session, "Succeeding with Skype for Business: Decoding the Cloud, Licensing, and Hybrid Options." To receive $200 off the current conference price, register now using the code NJPOST.

Because this update is cosmetic, the Skype for Business team suggests: "The end-user education, basic meeting room use scenarios go unchanged. Meeting room organizers will continue to be able to start meetings, share content and change display modalities the same way they did before the Cumulative Update." However, you would likely need to update any custom training materials you have produced, or quick reference cards that are often deployed in Lync Room System rooms, especially if they include screenshots.

Starting Nov. 10, the Cumulative Update, along with its "darker" experience, will either be applied automatically or manually, depending on the policy set by your IT administrator.

In my experience, Lync Room Systems, now Skype Room Systems (or more correctly Skype for Business Room Systems), provide end users with an easy-to-schedule, easy-to-use solution for extending Microsoft UC into larger meeting rooms. I would not expect the darker background associated with the Skype UI to change this.

The large Microsoft UC ecosystems provide many choices for room-based meetings and collaboration including high-definition USB cameras, Polycom CX5000s providing 360-degree video, Lync/Skype Room Systems, and the new, and often delayed, Surface Hub. What has been your experience using these devices?

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