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Managing the Skype Client UI in Skype for Business

With Microsoft officially announcing that they will be upgrading Office365 to utilize the Skype for Business back-end, administrators will need to begin to take actions to prepare themselves and their users for the impact of this update.
Note: Since Skype for Business (hereafter, S4B) hasn’t been released to GA yet, this information is still pre-release and subject to change!
A few important things you should begin planning for:
Skype for Business will be provided as an update package to existing Lync 2013 clients
S4B will still remain “lync.exe” from an executable perspective and maintain the same major version number as Lync 2013. This greatly helps admins because Windows QoS policies should not need to be re-tooled and application whitelists will not need to be updated. Microsoft has not yet set a release date on the client update but an official announcement is likely to come soon.
Can I use Lync 2013 with a S4B Server?
The simple answer to this is “Yes!”. Lync 2013 clients will absolutely work when your user account is homed to a S4B pool. Remember that any new features of a S4B pool will not be presented to your user account until you update your client software from the Lync 2013 UI.
How do I control the UI presented to users?
This is a multi-faceted answer but largely boils down to two major points:

  1. If your Lync 2013 client has the latest S4B client update and your user account is homed on a S4B pool, upon first sign-in your client will automatically switch to the new S4B UI.
  2. If your Lync 2013 client has the latest S4B client update and your user account is homed on a S4B pool, you can override the automatic UI behavior by setting the EnableSkypeUI parameter within the Client Policies.

The EnableSkypeUI parameter, when set to $FALSE, ensures that the Lync 2013 UI is always used by any clients connecting to a S4B pool. This parameter is the only method you can use to ensure that the new Skype UI is not presented to users and can be controlled in a targeted fashion to help organizations manage a staged rollout of the new UI. I’ve included a table below that describes the various different combinations of clients, servers, and resulting client UI:

Mailbox LocationLync/Skype account locationPreparation Required
OnlineOnlineYes
On-premises

OnlineYes
OnlineOn-premises

Yes
On-premises

On-premises

No*

How does this effect Lync Online users?
Microsoft exerts total control over all policies and pools within Lync Online and have begun notifying customers that pending S4B upgrades will be coming within the next 90 days. Some organizations may not be ready to begin rolling out the new S4B UI but because Microsoft controls the pool upgrade process within Office365, there are limited options in controlling the client UI. Lync Online customers cannot customize Client Policies and all current Lync Online policies have a value of NULL for the EnableSkypeUI parameter. With the EnableSkypeUI parameter being NULL, clients will invoke the new UI if they have obtained the latest client update. At the current time there is no other recourse for Lync Online customers to prevent the Skype UI from being displayed, other than restricting the rollout of the latest client updates. I do believe that Microsoft will begin publishing additional client policies to allow organizations to disable the Skype UI, but customers will need to keep examining available client policies within Lync Online to discover which policies will be available:
Get-CsClientPolicy | Select Identity,EnableSkypeUI
What else should I know?
Microsoft continues to update TechNet with information regarding the upcoming Office365 updates. I strongly urge customers to examine the TechNet website for additional information and as always, I’ll update this post (or create additional posts) to reflect new changes as they are announced!
4/1/2015 Update
Microsoft has officially announced that two Client Policies will be available for customers to control the rollout of the Skype UI within Office365:
Tag:ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI
I strongly urge customers to examine these policies as they may not contain the same settings, such as DisableSaveIM, as the Client Policy you may be using!
9/9/2015 Update
Microsoft now has the following client policies available for customers to control the rollout of the Skype UI within Office365:
Global
Tag:ClientPolicyDefaultPhotoDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoIMURLDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoIMURLPhotoDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoSaveIMNoArchivingDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoSaveIMNoArchivingNoIMURLDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoSaveIMNoArchivingNoIMURLPhotoDisableSkypeUI
Tag:ClientPolicyNoSaveIMNoArchivingPhotoDisableSkypeUI

8 thoughts on “Managing the Skype Client UI in Skype for Business

  1. The existing “consumer” Skype 7.x GUI has a number of major, serious problems. These are especially annoying for business users, as evidenced by hundreds of people taking the trouble to register with the Skype community to give almost universally negative feedback. (See http://www.moteprime.org/article.php?id=59 for more details.) Skype for Business needs to take these into account and ensure that users have adequate control over their own UI experience, most crucially accessibility and screen real estate.

  2. @Sean – The new S4B UI does pull some overall design cues from the consumer Skype client, but it is not a cut and dry replication of the consumer client. It is more a combination of the existing Lync 2013 UI and the Skype theme. There are changes to the client design, but the only controls users will have in terms of contact list design are already present within the Lync 2013 client. Any other specific concerns that you brought up in your blog will likely not be accounted for or not be relevant given the differences between the consumer and business UIs. Microsoft will be releasing more information on the new S4B client UI as March/April rolls on, so look for more information there. Alternatively, you can download the Office 2016 preview bits and see the new client UI there (assuming you have the ability to access a Lync 2013 server infrastructure).

  3. Trevor, many thanks for the reply. I don’t currently use Lync, but I look forward to seeing the new S4B UI. After the latest UI and cloud-based changes to “consumer” Skype it no longer meets my requirements for usability and privacy, and I am looking at alternative chat clients for use at work. S4B may possibly allow us to stay with the Skype brand if it avoids the same mistakes.

  4. Hello,
    We understand that if we upgrade our Lync 2013 servers to Skype for Business server in the backend and leave the clients running Lync 2013 with the disableskype UI setting, the client still changes it’s icon to Skype (desktop and taskbar). That would lead to helpdesk calls as we don’t want any changes to the client interface until we are ready to switch over the client to Skype for Business UI. Any way to get around that ?

  5. @John – Unfortunately there is no automated method to change the icon that is displayed. Once the April 2015 client cumulative update is installed on workstations, the icon will update regardless of whether you are restricting the UI. Additionally, the Online Meeting plug-in within Outlook gets updated as well and changes to be “Skype Meeting”, even when the new Skype UI is not used. I suppose you could do some fancy deployment scripts that try to set the icon to the legacy Lync icon, but that approach is likely to be A)complex and B)will almost certainly be overwritten by any subsequent client cumulative update.

  6. @Trevor…thanks for your reply..Will it change the icon if the April 2015 update has not bee applied yet ?

  7. @John – No. The April 2015 Cumulative Update must be installed on the workstation for any of the new UI elements to be present. Any cumulative update prior to that will not have any of the new UI capabilities. As an aside, I would not advise waiting long to roll out these latest updates. There are some security updates that have been released to address vulnerabilities in the Lync client that are addressed with the latest cumulative updates (April 2015 and later, including the September 2015 update).

  8. @Trevor- I think we should be good then as we blocked users from downloading the client update since a lot of training needs to be done first. We don’t want them to see any Skype elements on the client side until we are ready. At least we can now just upgrade the backend to Skype for Business and come back to the client upgrade after that. I appreciate your quick replies and enjoy reading your blog articles. Thanks.

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