Microsoft is moving forward with plans to eliminate the Mac version of the Skype Meetings App, after putting the initiative on hold late last year in response to user concerns. The Mac version of the client will be retired April 5, the company said Tuesday.
The Skype Meetings App is a browser addition that lets users without a desktop client join Skype for Business meetings. The app is quicker to download than the desktop client, and it supports more meeting features.
Beginning next month, Mac users will have no choice but to download the desktop client to join Skype for Business meetings. Microsoft customers objected to this change when first announced in October, forcing Microsoft to postpone retiring the Skype Meetings App.
"I think that having an alternative app has been valuable because in a lot of software ... things don't always work as designed," said Larry Goldfield, digital strategist at American Friends Service Committee, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit. "And the web app was a good alternative."
Microsoft trimming size of desktop app installer
To alleviate some user concerns, Microsoft said it would make the size of the desktop app installer smaller, from 47 MB to less than 40 MB. Microsoft plans to make a preview of the downsized installer available to customers in mid-March.
Microsoft also said it would update the desktop client for Mac to support file sharing. However, the desktop app still will not support whiteboards, polls and Q&A's -- all of which are available in the Skype Meetings App.
Another potential problem for Mac users is that IT departments may require workers to seek permission before installing the Skype for Business desktop client. This could delay guests attempting to join a Skype meeting with external collaborators.
"Unlike Webex, Zoom and BlueJeans, which have tiny or no required installers, the Skype for Business experience on Mac now requires external guests to load a fat client in order to join the meeting," said Phillip Lyle, vice president of infrastructure at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.
Mac users feeling shortchanged
Microsoft's retiring of the Skype Meetings App for Mac is also adding fuel to complaints that the company treats Mac users differently than Windows users. Microsoft said it's eliminating the web client because the desktop app provides "the best and most stable meeting experience" for Mac users.
"Microsoft shops still have to support their Mac users, and it just makes the Microsoft product look less robust in the eyes of our users when the Mac users continually don't have the same feature or have problems that the Windows users don't have," Goldfield said.
The move to retire the Mac client comes amid an aggressive campaign by Microsoft to get users to switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. The vendor has blocked new cloud-based Skype for Business Online signups for small businesses and it has begun an automated process to move small business users from the older app to the newer app.
Microsoft seems to be more interested in developing collaborative tools for teams that meet frequently than in competing more broadly in the web conferencing market, Lyle said.
In the short term, Chapman University may need to begin using Zoom to host meetings with external collaborators, he said. Microsoft Teams also requires installing a full client for guest meeting access.
"Longer term, we may need to consider scrapping the Microsoft meeting platform entirely so that we can unify on a single experience," Lyle said.