Microsoft Announce E5 Plan for Office 365

Currently in Office 365 when selecting Enterprise plans, we have the choice of four ranging from E1 up to E4.

At the Worldwide Partner Conference this week, a new SKU was announced called E5 which will be replacing the current E4 SKU. This new E5 SKU takes everything that was offered in E4 (namely E3 plus Enterprise Voice for Skype for Business) and adds even more features to help you adopt Office 365. Although this is not an available SKU right now, it looks set for the features to include the new Skype for Business services that are currently being trialled along with Power BI for Office 365 and potentially more stuff that we just don’t know about right now. Skype for Business currently has three new services in trial although these are limited to customers in the US at the moment.

The Cloud PBX feature will allow you to use Skype for Business Online without the need for a hybrid deployment with a Skype for Business Mediation Server hosted on-premises connected to SIP Trunks or ISDN circuits for

PSTN Conferencing allows you to host normal Lync meetings with the added capability of allowing parties to join the call from a telephone using Dial-In Conferencing. This can already be achieved using either a hybrid solution where PSTN callers join the call via a mediation server hosted on-premise or using a cloud based service such as those from InterCall or BT but the Skype for Business native offering brings it all under one roof with a single vendor to manage your billing and support.

The Meeting Broadcast feature allows you to broadcast your Skype for Business meetings online in instances where you need to have thousands of attendees joining such as a company-wide update meeting or a webinar. Although I confess to not having looked into this in-depth, there is no doubt this is being powered by Azure Media Services behind the scenes.

There are going to be questions that need to be answered for all of these new services such as how the billing model works, what countries it will be available in and will there be limited features in others. There is also the question (for existing Lync on-premise customers) or how the Cloud PBX solution will work with the likes of PSTN devices such as fax machines and whether or not ethernet based Lync clients (Tanjay devices) will work with the new Skype for Business but the promise of being able to have a fully cloud based PBX solution all under one umbrella of Skype for Business is very appealing.

Gartner Magic Quadrant Unified Communications

Well here’s one you wouldn’t have expected to see. Gartner have placed Microsoft and Lync ahead of Cisco in their Unified Communications Magic Quadrant.

Gartner have put Cisco and Microsoft level for Ability to Execute however Microsoft have been placed ahead in Vision. You can read the full article at http://www.gartner.com/technology/reprints.do?id=1-1YWQWK0&ct=140806&st=sb. Well done Microsoft. Now if work can be done to address the cautions that Gartner have identified then the position will be even stronger.

Living the Dream: Exchange, SharePoint and Lync

If you happen to work for a Microsoft prodominant environment and you either are thinking about deploying the holy trinity of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync or you are interested in the integration between the services, then check out these two posts from DrRez on the TechNet Blogs. These two posts go into techincal detail about the integration between the services and how to actually setup some of them.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/drrez/archive/2011/04/26/lync-2010-exchange-2010-sharepoint-2010-and-office-2010-integration-part-1.aspx
http://blogs.technet.com/b/drrez/archive/2011/04/27/lync-2010-exchange-2010-sharepoint-2010-and-office-2010-integration-part-2.aspx

One nugget I learnt from reading it was that for Exchange to see the LDAP thumbnailPhoto attribute to allow it to publish the pictures into the Global Address List and Outlook clients is that you ust update the AD Schema to allow replication of the thumbnailPhoto attribute to Global Catalog servers.

Whats Missing in the Lync Client for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Lync is one of those fantastic products that I yearn for. It cross cuts the entire communication eco-system and gives you fantastic integration across the Microsoft stack including SharePoint and the Office application suite, however much to my dismay we don’t use Lync in my place of work and instead use the mediocre Cisco CUCM. To this end, my only experiences with Lync in a real-world ‘anger’ situations are when participating in calls hosted by other companies using Lync, Microsoft themselves being the main player for me.

For a long time now, there has been speculation of a Lync Client for Windows Phone 7 being released and this week it finally hit the marketplace not only for Windows Phone 7, but also for Apple iOS devices, Android and Symbian.

The app looks great in the screenshots, showing the features on offer well, however one huge feature is missing for me. The ability to use the app as a Lync Attendee Client: See Lync offers two different clients. The full blown corporate use client and the Lync Attendee Client. If you use Lync in a corporate scenario you will have the full client, however if you are like me and only use Lync to participate in sessions hosted by others, you use the lighter Lync Attendee Client which doesn’t require credentials and is designed around guest access.

Sadly, the Lync Client app for the mobile handsets released this week is only suitable for full client use scenarios as told by the app guidance notes in the Windows Phone Marketplace:

IMPORTANT: Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows Phone requires a Lync Server or Office365/Lync Online account and will not work without it. If you are unsure about your account status, please contact your IT department.

He being me, I decided to install the app and try it anyway, but sadly the prescribed guidance was correct. This was a sucker-punch to me, and I think it will limit somewhat the ability for people to use the Lync Client. My only hope is that a separate client is released which does give you the ability to participate in Lync sessions as a guest.

If you are lucky enough to use Lync in a full deployment, you can get the app for Windows Phone 7 from http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/9ce93e51-5b35-e011-854c-00237de2db9e.