Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Microsoft Begins Shipping the Lync Mobile Client

For those of us in the Lync world, the release of a Lync client for mobile phones has been long awaited. Although Microsoft released Lync 2010 to the market over a year ago, there has been no mobile client up till now. The lack of a mobile client has been a point some Microsoft competitors have been quick to jump on. But starting earlier this week, the client is slowly rolling out on 5 key platforms (Windows phone, iPhone, iPad, Android and Nokia Symbian).  Thus far, Microsoft has only released Lync for the Windows Phone – the others are shown as ‘coming soon’ on the Mobile Clients for Microsoft Lync web page.

Microsoft cites 4 key features of the new Lync mobile client:

  • Join conferences with a single touch - no access code or pin number is required.
  • Stay connected, while controlling your availability – you can see who's available at a glance and connect over IM, email or a call. You can also set your own status and notification settings so you can stay in touch while protecting your "off-work" time.
  • Communicate with others using a single, consistent identity. The Call-via-work feature allows outbound calls using your Enterprise Voice number, making it easier for others to recognize calls from the Lync mobile client.
  • Connect with confidence through channel encryption, transport layer security (TLS) support, and perimeter/internal network protection that help safeguard your communications.

To the dismay of some, there is no VOIP client – all phone calls to/from the device have to be made over the cellular network, but Call from work and One Number reach do make that a little less expensive.  It appears that the Call via Work feature will not be shipped with Android.

Like so many things Microsoft, the client is not something you can just load from the relevant store and have it work – you do need some work on your Lync implementation and need to install the latest cumulative updates (CU4 in particular) to get the necessary services up and running that support the motile client.

These requirements are spelt out in yet another TechNet article: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh690988.aspx. You will need to do some work against your DNS servers to ensure automatic discovery and sign-in works properly. Although this is pretty straightforward, it is work that needs to be planned for and carried out. If you are an Office 365 user and Microsoft is managing your DNS, the work appears to be already done. I host DNS externally to Office 365 but it took me just a few minutes to adjust my DNS settings as needed. You also have to install and configure the mobility service (in CU4), and update your voice policy to support use of the mobile client.

One important gotcha that might be easy to overlook: You need to include certain (new and additional) SAN entries on your key servers. In particular you need to adjust SAN entries on the certificates in your Director pool, your Front End Pool and the reverse proxy. If you use public certificates for any of these systems, you may have to buy an updated certificate for the RP system. 

In closing, it’s worth noting that the mobile client does NOT provide 100% of the features of the Lync desktop client.  You can see a good comparison of the various clients at: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh691004.aspx. Some features that are NOT provided by the mobile client (as documented in TechNet) include:

  • Caching multiple users account information on the same device
  • Modify Contacts List
  • Tag contacts for status change alerts
  • Control privacy relationships
  • Log IM conversations in Exchange/Outlook
  • Use dial-in audio conferencing
  • Transfer a call
  • Call a response group
  • Support E911
  • Client side IM archiving and client side recording

I can’t wait to get my hands on the client and to use it against my Office 365 account (tfl@reskit.onmicrosoft.com). From all I’ve heard from those who have the client – it does what it says it does and thus far appears stable and resilient. I look forward to using the client - As an iPhone user, I will have to patient. After all – I’ve been waiting 14 months or so for this client a few more days wait is not the end of the world! It will make a nice Christmas present!

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