Lync for Surface – First Look

What is Surface and why do I care?

I try to provide info based on what I have learned and experienced using a variety of products in the Microsoft UC platform space. Mostly, that info is around devices (and I do have a device to review, but in this case I will be looking at the Lync experience on the Surface tablet. If you haven’t seen the surface yet (because you have been in outer space or perhaps just woke from a coma) it is Microsoft’s direct foray into the tablet space. It combines the familiarity of Windows and the ease of use that the Windows Phone brought to the PC/Tablet world:

Properly using this device requires that applications be capable of delivering the experience in the “Windows 8 UI experience”.
Lync in this case delivers that in spades.

I received my Surface and the first 3 task I completed were:

  1. Update Office to RTM
  2. Install Skype
  3. Install Lync.

One of the things I was most pleased about was the fact that I could actually do work on this device. I’m writing this blog entry from Word 2013 installed on my Surface RT. Lync was extremely important for me to truly consider this a companion device.

User Interface’

The UI for the Lync Surface client is slick. Its sexy, it’s good for touch screens and it is exactly what Microsoft needs to release if Surface and Lync are going to be taken seriously.

As you can see, the interface is very touch friendly. Your presence and personal note are located in the upper right corner. Clicking on that opens your card where you can update your note, change your presence, change your call forwarding settings and log out,

The layout is optimized for Touch. Lync meetings are automatically available in the left hand corner along with tiles for voicemail, your contacts and your conversation history. You favorites are available via the center tile and your contact groups are available on the right.

Inside the contact groups, you can see that you get the photos as you expect.

As you select a contact you have the option of starting communications through modalities including IM/Voice and Video. The contact card is also available if you wish.

It’s a very familiar interface with comfort for a touch screen

How does it perform

I was a little skeptical at first about how it would perform, but when Joe and I did a video call from surface to surface, it was pretty impressive. The performance didn’t lag at all and the video quality was excellent. Having the ability to switch between the front and rear cameras was a nice touch as well.

Verdict

Overall, I found the client to be a terrific addition to the Lync family. My only disappointment is that I haven’t seen a way to share or participate in sharing session yet. I will have to update this further when I have been able to try that. I am going to hope that considering the iPad supports content sharing, that the Surface would support that as well.

 

Stay tuned.

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About scavali

20 years of Information Technology experience, including 15 with Microsoft Services and Sales to some of the largest and smallest companies in the world, give me some unique perspective on the technology industry as a whole. Now I am the Unified Communications Practice Manager for Janalent, 2 time UC Worldwide Partner of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Combine that with my passion for photography, scuba diving, all things Key West and my time volunteering with the Madison, NJ Fire Department and you will find an eccletic combination of thoughts and experiences conveyed on this blog. Please contribute, I value people's productive feedback.
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7 Responses to Lync for Surface – First Look

  1. ucitseasy says:

    How did you find device support? I had trouble with some- which ones have you tried?

    • scavali says:

      I most recently tried the Plantronics Blackwire 710-M headset and the Plantronics USB Speakerphone. Both had no trouble and worked as expected. Now, with UC devices, I would expect them to work because the driver should be included when they are plugged in, assuming they are optimized for Lync. What devices did you have trouble with?

  2. Darren Lovell says:

    Hi Sam,

    Good to see some more information coming out about the mobile/tablet Lync clients. It certainly does look promising. A quick question, was this test done on the Surface Pro Tablet or the RT? We see the Pro versions as the enterprise manageable version for Win 8 and the RT equivalent to something like an iPad. The reason why I ask is that it is still not clear if the Lync mobile clients for Slate RT, iOS and Android devices will in fact support video and direct VoIP calling instead of enterprise voice call back services. I can’t wait to see your verdict of the Lync client on other platforms besides MS. You know we are a MS shop but we have business demand to support an array of devices and we are hoping for a consistent user experience across differing tablet platforms.

    • scavali says:

      Darren, Great to hear from you mate. This test was completed on a Surface RT, not on a Surface Pro. I didn’t want to wait until 2013 for the pro and really, the RT satisfies my needs. Now that I’ve said that, I can see how you would want the pro for enterprise management. The RT mobile client does indees support video and direct VoIP calling. Supports it very well if my info here wasn’t clear enough on the topic. The iOS device today supported meeting content when I checked last. I will take another look at the iOS client because there have been a number of updates in the last few months to those clients. I know that we were able to conduct internal meetings with content in Lync and my wife was participating via her iPad for audio and content sharing and was very pleased with how her iPad 2 performed.

      Bottom line Darren, you should expect for the user experience to become more consistent across the different tablet platforms. The only wildcard I’ll throw in there is around Andriod since there are so many versions of Android, there will likely be a minimum version requirement and that might cause some trouble. iOS and Windows 8 are likely your best bets.

      Stay in touch!!!

  3. ucitseasy says:

    Couple of useful features that would make this excellent. Tag contacts. I find I am using this on a regular basis on the PC client. Online contacts grouping- wish there was a way of filtering online contacts. Looking forward to additional features over time.

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