Make video, audio calls and send text messages, writes Loryan Strant.
One of the most simplest yet most powerful components of Microsoft Office 365 is a product offering called Lync Online. The Lync and Lync Server product names only came into existence in late 2010 when the product was re-branded from Office Communicator and Office Communications Server.
Lync forms the cornerstone of the Microsoft’s unified communications platform and features instant messaging, presence, one-to-one voice and video calls, one-to-many voice and video calls, and can share applications, desktops, monitors, whiteboards and presentations. It can entertain hundreds of conference attendees.
The Office 365 suite includes Lync Online which is fairly similar to the on-premise server version but minus the phone system functionality.
Lync Online on a tablet promises Office 365 users the ability to communicate almost as effectively as if they were in the office. Imagine being able to participate in a conference while you’re sitting in a park!
Microsoft promised that Lync would be usable on any of the popular smartphone and tablet platforms. Unfortunately this hasn’t been happened yet.
A search on iTunes shows only two companies offering Lync solutions; MaxMobile and Xync. MaxMobile requires server-based components to work which is not an option when using Lync Online under Office 365.
There are three choices of the Xync application which vary in feature set and platform compatability.
Xync is the entry-level application. It costs US $19.99 and gives you what you need to communicate with peers, but not conference (call more than one person at a time).
XyncConf adds conferencing for US $24.99. XyncCollab includes desktop and program sharing, as well as file transfer for US $29.99.
The iPad versions of the apps carry the suffix of “HD” to denote the difference from the iPhone programs.
Xync in action
I have chosen to use the XyncConf-HD version on the iPad and found it to be quite useful when out of the office. It can connect to most Lync Server implementations be they on-premise or hosted such as Office 365.
The setup is simple: type in your username and server details. If you are on Office 365 then you just need to check the “Office 365” user box.
The app shows the presence display (busy indicators) of users on my contact list, initiation of a multi-party IM (instant message) or audio conference, easy transition from IM to voice or video, and the ability to hold multiple conversations at once.
One feature I love is the ability to flip between the front and back cameras on the iPad.
So while the solution is great, there are some negatives you need to be aware of.
Xync doesn’t work in landscape mode, only in portrait.
The video picture of the iPad user is very poor, probably due to the iPad’s low-resolution camera. And it’s not possible to have a video call with more than one other caller. Multiparty conferencing is restricted to audio calls and instant messaging.
You can’t add contact to the corporate address book or externally. And the interface is less intuitive than Lync, which means more taps or clicks to achieve the same result.
During the course of writing this article I made a couple of IM conversations and video calls with my fellow Office 365 MVPs in the US.
On the whole Xync is simple and easy to use, and as functional as anyone would really need to be on their iPad whether on a wireless network or on the road with 3G.
It certainly fills the gap until Microsoft release their official Lync mobile clients next year.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.