CenturionStudio.it - Fotolia

Skype for Business Mac preview is ready to test drive

Microsoft released its long-awaited Skype for Business Mac preview. The application, to be rolled out in three phases, will be available publicly later this year.

Microsoft's release of the Skype for Business for Mac preview underscores the proliferation of Apple devices in the enterprise. It also shows willingness on Microsoft's part in catering to this group of users.

Microsoft announced last week in a company blog posting that the Mac preview was available for those who wanted to test drive the new desktop software. The application will be publicly available in the third quarter of 2016, according to the company. Those interested in a Mac preview can visit the Skype Preview site to sign up for an invite.

The Skype for Business for Mac application will be released in three cumulative stages. The first phase includes meetings functionality; the second will include IM and contact lists; and the third involves telephony, said Katie Fourcin, a Microsoft spokesperson. Microsoft will release the Mac preview phases as they are completed.

Microsoft rebranded Lync as Skype for Business a little over a year ago, and this is the first client application for Mac since then.

Microsoft said they want to offer the familiarity of the Skype consumer experience, but combined with the enterprise-grade security, compliance and IT management capabilities. Some of the app's features include the ability to see meetings from the Exchange-powered Outlook Calendar and ability to make calls with 250 people. Additionally, users can join in meetings with a click, use full-screen video, view content, share screens, chat while in meetings and invite others to join.

More people using Macs at work

Until recently, Macs in the workforce were largely utilized by employees who wanted to take advantage of top-quality design programs, according to Alan Lepofsky, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc.

"Apple's reach in the enterprise has moved far beyond the historical base that was primarily within creative departments," Lepofsky said.

To reiterate this point, Lepofsky said Microsoft's release of Office for iOS has helped garner some 340 million downloads of the application. This number includes Android devices, too, but shows the popularity of Microsoft's plan to diversify beyond the Windows world. Additionally, Skype for Business has been downloaded some 900 million times on iOS and Android.

"Clearly, there is a large Mac base waiting for this update," Lepofsky said.

The Skype for Business for Mac application has been promised for years, and this preview is a significant development, according to Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

Microsoft has never fully supported the Mac client, Lazar said. Instead, Microsoft has generally steered Mac users to its Web client, which has some limitations involving meetings, minutes used and peer-to-peer functionality.

"More than anything, this shows Microsoft is fulfilling a commitment they've made repeatedly," Lazar said. "To support the Mac users and stop treating them as second-class citizens."

Next Steps

Skype for Business isn't the consumer Skype

Deploying Skype for Business

Collaborators want Skype for Business

Dig Deeper on Collaborative Applications