It took a year after the release of Microsoft Lync 2010, but this week Microsoft finally released mobile clients for its real-time communications server. That means you can access your corporate Lync server for IM, presence information, and related goodies, from your smartphone. So far, Microsoft has released clients for Windows Phone and Android, with iPhone, iPad, and Symbian versions expected any time now. The smartphone addicts among us will rejoice.
Of course, these mobile client releases from Microsoft are no major surprise. "This was always part of the Microsoft roadmap that those clients were going to be later," said Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing for managed services provider, Azaleos. "Microsoft has been talking about them, so it's not a huge surprise that they're coming out when they are, but it's good to have them nonetheless."
Can you imagine Microsoft Exchange Server without a Microsoft client for email? It makes sense that Microsoft would provide its own Lync clients, as well; the Lync desktop version has been available since the server product launched -- and it's a nice upgrade from the Office Communicator interface of Lync's predecessor, Office Communications Server (OCS). Now you can join Lync conferences from the road on your smartphone as well -- although it appears that will be audio only for the time being, no video.
Although it's good news to see Microsoft's mobile Lync clients debut, other companies have been offering mobile clients, most notably Xync from Damaka, which is available for iOS, Android, and Symbian. "These third-party apps come out and plug right in and work right away after you buy them," said Tim Harrington, Lync architect for Azaleos. Which begs the question: Why would Microsoft delay releasing its own mobile clients? Is this delay a mistake, giving third parties the chance to stake their spots in the marketplace?
Something else to consider is that to use Microsoft's mobile Lync clients, you'll have to apply the latest updates available for Lync to your server environment. Cumulative Update 4 includes new mobility support, upon which Microsoft's clients rely -- a requirement previous apps didn't have. Harrington also said, "Microsoft is going to require not only the CU4 update but also DNS and certificate changes as well for your Lync deployment. They haven't made it easy. Hopefully, they have a bigger picture in mind. So maybe some fancy whiz-bang functionality is going to come along that's going to require these changes."
Microsoft hasn't mentioned anything whiz-bang worthy that I've seen, which doesn't mean it's not under wraps somewhere. One thing's for certain: If you're running Lync 2010 and plan to support these new Lync clients, you might have a bit of work to do. And your smartphone-addicted end users might not be patient to get these apps running on their favorite devices.
And if you're running Lync in your environment today, you might be interested in reviewing a blog Tim Harrington posted on Azaleos's website, "10 Tips for Keeping Lync Jitter Free." The list includes many tasks that might fall into the category of common sense, but it never hurts to remind yourself of their importance -- just in case you've been letting something slip. The list also highlights what a complicated and integrated platform Lync is: It relies on the health of many other systems -- Exchange Server, Active Directory, DNS, and so forth. Fortunately, the benefits of Lync are vast as well.
If you have a moment, perhaps you'd answer our poll question about Lync deployment, which you can find on the Exchange & Outlook page of our website. We'd love to see how many people have deployed this technology, or how far along your plans might be. You can also leave a comment below, or send me an email.