UNC320: What’s new in the Lync 2010 Experience and Backend

This session was really a good demo of a plethora of Lync 2010 (AKA OCS 14) features from the end-user perspective, and some changes on the back-end. The slide deck wasn’t available to download for this session, so listed below are only a fraction of the topics covered in this session. The bottom line is that Lync 2010 is a major release, and has more new features than you can shake a stick at. Release timeframe is the latter half of 2010.

New features include:

– Live Contact Card. The live contact card is a brand new concept that aggregates data from multiple sources and display it in real time. It shows details such as your picture, name, status, title, location, and other details. The contact card can also pulls organizational information such as your manager and direct reports for your manager from AD. It’s a one stop shopping experience for real-time contact data.

– Location information can be pulled from Active Directory site and subnets. So you can associate subnets in your corporation with a site name, and the OCS client will display that data automatically. If you roam from your corporate network you can manually associate a subnet with a custom location (such as “Home”) and OCS will automatically use that data. No more remembering to put “Working from home” or “In the office” in your status bar. If you work in a geographically distributed environment, users can automatically see where you are. You can disable or limit this feature to certain types of contacts, should you want to.

– Access control to live contact card properties and location information is very granular. You can limit the scope of who can see what data. For example, you can limit who can see your home phone number or your mobile number. Some settings are controlled by the administrator, while many others are left up to the end user to configure.

– Search for people by skill set or experience. This is one powerful feature. It leverages SharePoint 2010, and has a special search engine that can infer skill sets from documents you have authored or other data in your SharePoint profile. You can also explicitly list skills in SharePoint 2010 and it will be searched. For example, if you are in a company with 50,000 user and you search for “John Smith” you might get 10 results. But if the John Smith you want to contact is a specialist in ASIC design then within the OCS client you can type “John Smith ASIC” and it will just return his contact information, not the other nine John Smith users.

– There’s now a “Unified Contact Store” which leverages Exchange 2010. This enables a single repository for all contact data regardless of the endpoint device, or how you access your data.

– The OCS client keeps track of your ten most communicated with people, be it IM or email and auto-populates this list. This is a dynamic list and the contents will change as your IM/email patterns change.

– In Office 2010 OCS is integrated with “Backstage” and document co-authoring. Document co-authoring is a new feature in Office 2010 that allows an unlimited number of people to concurrently edit the same document. OCS is directly integrated with this feature so within the document you can see presence information and also interactively collaborate via IM. As you save the document the sections with the other users have updated get pulled into your document. Word locks data at the paragraph level and PowerPoint locks individual slides.

– The OCS client now has a re-join feature for IM conferences should your connection drop, like when you use WiFi or are using a cellular data connection.

– There’s now a visual indicator when IMs are delivered to the other user.

– Presence information is now timezone aware, and you have granular control over various privacy options.

– In MOSS 2010 you can click on the presence icon for a user and directly start an IM, see their live contact data, or perform other actions on that user. This enables seamless integration between OCS and MOSS.

– OCS 14 now supports full screen HD video. TandBurg and Microsoft both make 720P HD video webcams that are pretty cheap.

There were a bunch more features that I didn’t have time to write down. One of the big themes in the 2010 wave of products be it Exchange, SharePoint or OCS, is social networking. This is very apparent in the amount of contextual information you get about users, photos of users all over the place, deep integration with Internet social networks such as LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook. For internal networks, the tight integration with MOSS 2010 provides similar social context and data. An administrator can of course control or block these features as well, so corporate policies can be enforced.

Bottom line is that to enable all of this tight integration you need Lync 2010, Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Office 2010. Using any down-level software could significantly reduce the functionality and integration. Office 2010 is the glue that really ties all of these products together in a seamless fashion. Making upgrading to Office 2010 a top priority in your environment, and hopefully before you upgrade the server back-end.

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