Skype for Business on Mac Nears Completion

The wait's almost over. Skype for Business on the Mac (formerly Skype) is starting to close the features gap with the its Windows counterpart.

Microsoft Skype for Businesss

Microsoft has added new features to its Skype for Business Mac Preview this week, bringing it a couple of big steps closer to parity with the Windows-based version of the enterprise communications software.

In April, a year after replacing Lync with Skype for Business on Windows, the software maker kicked off a phased preview of the software for Mac PCs (OS X El Capitan and above) with limited functionality. Early testers could view scheduled Skype meetings in Outlook and join them by clicking the pertinent calendar item. Given the narrow scope of the first phase's capabilities, Microsoft recommended that users keep running Lync for Mac 2011 for continued access to the platform's voice and messaging features.

Now, ahead of its anticipated official release later this year, Microsoft is further pulling back the curtain on what the full experience has to offer.

Two key components, contacts and presence, now work in the preview, Paul Cannon, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft Skype for Business, said in a July 5 blog post. "See whether a contact is offline or online, whether they're busy, in a meeting or available, and easily start an IM conversation," he wrote.

Group video calling with up to four participants has been enabled, along with peer-to-peer calls with other Skype for Business contacts using voice over IP (VOIP). Finally, conversation histories are now available, allowing users to view a list of past conversations and restart them at their leisure.

The third and final phase of preview is due sometime this summer, added Cannon. It will flesh out the software's voice communications features, including the ability to dial traditional phone numbers.

While many Lync for Mac users are undoubtedly looking forward to the update to their aging communications software suite, Cannon had some bad news for those who waited until Microsoft made more progress before registering for the beta program. In short, they missed their chance.

"There has been tremendous interest in the preview, with over 22,000 individuals, representing more than 7,000 organizations, signing up since it opened on April 26," he wrote. "We are now at capacity for the number of preview participants and are no longer accepting registrations."

Microsoft has been active on the Skype front this week.

On July 5, Microsoft launched its free Web-based Skype Meetings service for small businesses. The product is available to anyone in the United States with a business email address and whose organization is not currently paying for an Office 365 subscription.

Users can conduct virtual meetings with up to 10 attendees, a number that drops to three users after a 60-day trial period expires. Skype Meetings supports HD video, screen sharing, instant messaging and PowerPoint presentations.

Also this week, Microsoft announced new file-sharing enhancements for the consumer Skype apps. Users can now trade photos, videos and documents of up to 300MB between friends and groups, announced the company, complete with offline support and the ability to collect a file on multiple devices.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...