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Review of Plantronics Voyager Focus UC (B825-M) for Skype for Business

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The Plantronics Voyager Focus UC is a Lync/Skype for Business Bluetooth wireless headset with ANC. A couple things I noted:

  • It's nice and light
  • Has a mic boom that looks suspiciously like the Voyager Legend
  • I noticed the Mic does a good job of canceling out background noise
  • The head band fits nice and is light
  • 8 volume levels
  • The mute button on the mic boom is red so you don’t miss it
  • Older Plantronics Blackwire has a sewn seam in the leather that came apart with use for me and I notice the Focus no longer has that point of possible failure
  • White led in base to indicates power, blue

Cons

  • No ringer in the charging base (but very few headsets have this)
  • USB cable for base might be a little short (not a big issue)
  • The case has no little pouch for the Bluetooth dongle which would be nice to avoid loosing it

Watch my video review and improvements over the older Blackwire design.

Below is my review slide show:

Overall I think the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC will make a very nice wireless headset that wears nice and does a good job of canceling noise from the microphone and an option to turn on ANC to speakers.

Hands On Review of the Microsft Surface Hub: It’s a Collaboration Device, Not a Room System

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I finally got some hands on time to play with the Surface Hub and my impressions have been adjusted considerably. As someone who works with Lync & Skype for Business continuously I was thinking in terms of “this is a Lync Room System” replacement (when, in fact, Microsoft made no such claim. It just looks like one physically and does meetings so it is easy for Lync/Skype for Business pro’s to think in this direction) It really is a collaboration device that can also do meetings.

The way I would describe the Surface Hub is a specialty Windows 10 PC with a user interface tailored for large touch screen applications meant to be interacted with by touch. Instead of the standard Windows 10 user interface the Surface Hub runs apps inside a black border (black frame around the applications).  This black frame around the apps includes quick navigation shortcuts to things like Make a Call, Instant Message and more. These shortcuts can reinforce the “It’s a Room System” misunderstanding but once again, this device is really about collaboration in front of a large touchscreen with the added ability to do Skype for Business meetings & calls.

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A few things about the Skype for Business application that runs on the Surface Hub. First, it is a Skype for Business Universal app written specifically for the Surface Hub. It also has a unique feature not in the standard or Windows Store Skype for Business client which is that it can switch between two cameras automatically. (I would love this functionality in standard app & SDK) The Surface Hub has two cameras on the left and right and as you move around in front of the Surface Hub it will detect which is the best camera and automatically switch to it. Also note that the cameras are angled and very wide angle so they catch the action directly in front of the Hub, which is another indicator the Hub tailored for active collaboration in front of the device as opposed to a room system orientation.

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[in progress article, more coming]

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more

Video Below

It’s a platform to run large screen applications, not a Room System.

https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-surface-hub/en-us

My First Look at Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast

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This is my first look at Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast Preview. Note, this is PREVIEW, so things can change and features will be added.

I used all Office 365 Skype for Business users to keep this simple. (you need to do a little additional setup if you have mixed onprem & online users). Next, just setup a “Skype Meeting Broadcast” using the web scheduling page at https://sched.services.skype.net/

Now, “New Meeting” (your screen will obviously not have “Live Now” or “Upcoming meetings” yet)

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Now you can edit the meeting. Actually if you are going to be the sole user running the meeting and want it to be an anonymous meeting (anyone can join) you are done. (Wow, that was easy!)

But, if you want to you can tweak the meeting to your tastes

  • Event Title
  • Scheduled for Start Date, Time and Duration
  • Event Team Members
  • Attendees: Anonymous, Secure and Open (anyone in company, coming soon)
  • Customize Event
    • Right Panel App (bing pulse or yammer)
    • Lower Panel App (bing pulse or yammer)
    • Troubleshooting support: URL and Link Text
    • Custom Link for Attendees: URL link to content related to event & Link Text

NOTE: You can get a free BETA Bing Pulse account at https://pulse.bing.com

Note: A little slightly odd thing to note is that you need to save each section before proceeding.

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Now just copy the event link at the top right of screen and distribute it along with event schedule.

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If someone tries to join the broadcast before the schedule time, they will see the below: (ATM there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the “Not Started” curtain.)

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Now when the presenter/producer is ready to broadcast, he should click on the meeting join URL (same one as everyone uses to join the broadcast) with a user that he created the broadcast meeting with.

NOTE: I was having problems that it wanted to sign with an unrelated user, so deleting cookies in IE took care of the problem and it would ask for Office365 login

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Note, the new protocol handler, Skypecast15.

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Now unmute the audio, start video (or share something)  and make that panel Active by right clicking and select “Make Active for Video Broadcasting”

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Now you can “Start Broadcast”. Note that it will take about 30 seconds till those watching the broadcast will start seeing it.

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Also, you can only “Start” and “Stop” a broadcast ONE time, so there is no turning back after you are Start. Skype4B will remind you of this important fact:

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Now it’s going. We added a PowerPoint which adds some more controls to the Producer’s meeting panel.

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Now any viewers (attendees that are not a part of the Event Team) that have clicked on the Join URL will see the broadcast. They have the option to rewind, pause or jump to Live.

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NOTE: Joining with IE or Chrome on PC worked just fine. I joined with an Android phone with no problem as well.

Those viewing will want to be aware that the audio will play on PC speaker device, not the Skype for Business client preferred device. This is much like Lync PowerPoint video played in the past. (click here)

After the Producer stops the event, anyone that clicks the Join URL will see the broadcast recording. If you want to see such a recording, feel free to click https://join.services.skype.net/landiscomputer/5c0df1ac-af5f-4df3-b6d4-cd3ec03a7008 (note that the video was muted for awhile, go to minute 4:00)

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Playing Videos Inside PowerPoint in Broadcast Meetings

I have written a detailed article on how to play videos (and corresponding audio) inside a stnadard Skype for Business meeting. (see the article here) In my tests with Skype for Business Broadcast Meetings when the PowerPoint page with the video is shown to, it displays “Error: Unsupported video type or invalid file path” to broadcast viewers in the lower left of where the video would be.

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Some Notes

  • The recording does not appear to be saved in Office 365 Video
  • Don’t see any additional Office 365 Reports related to Skype4B Broadcast
  • ATM I don’t see a place to download the broadcast video
  • On the broadcast viewer there is no count of viewer, which I expected
  • ATM No “lower third” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_third)

 

Conclusion

Once again, like “Cloud PBX”, I am impressed at how it “just works”. There were really no gotchas and it all made immediate sense. People are going to love Skype for Business Meeting Broadcasts.

How to Setup Your Office 365 Skype for Business Cloud PBX & Dialin PSTN in 5 Minutes

My experience setting up Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling” and “Dial in Conferencing” was quite smooth and just took several minutes to provision and setup. Very simple, streamline process. Here are the steps to setup the Preview.

Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling Setup

Type in Preview activation code URL and you see below. Click “Add it to my account”

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Click “try now” (now it took several minutes/~3minutes till “Skype Voice” available in Office365 admin)

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Assign a “Skype for Business Domestic and International calling” License to a user.

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Now let’s get a number for our Office365 Skype for Business User

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Select State/City

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Now assign the phone number to a user

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select phone number

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Done and sure enough, our Skype for Business client now has the “Phone” tab and we can make and receive phone calls.

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Supported features: Call hold/resume, Call forwarding, Call transfer, Simul-Ring, Team ring,  & Delegation.

Some of my notes on Skype for Business Cloud PBX (Preview, final version may change)

  • Caller ID that shows up for remote party is the phone number
  • Local numbers not normalized to local area codes (you need to type area code)
  • No “Quality Check Test Call” button/option
  • No DID Porting option at this time

Setting up “Skype for Business Domestic and International calling” aka “Skype for Business Cloud PBX” was very simple and quick (5 minutes!) to setup. Considering this includes provisioning PSTN DID’s this is very smooth and quick process.

Dialin PSTN Setup

Add a new user and assign it the “Skype for Business Advanced Meeting Add-on”

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Or, if you are adding the license to an existing user

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Select license

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Now we can see/set the dialin number assigned to users

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See the Dial In Numbers that are available to users

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Microsoft has also released a tool to update exsisting meetings after you have enabled Dial In Conferencing and it available here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=47728

Reports Related to Cloud PBX or Dialin Conferencing

Office 365 Admin Center | Reports | Skype for Business – User Activities

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Office 365 Admin Center | Reports | Skype for Business – Conferences. This report includes “Dialin” minutes.

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Conclusion

I’m very impressed with my initial experience setting up Office 365 “Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling” and “Dail in Conferencing”. Fast and straightforward that easily fits into the generalist IT expertise level. Obviously this is “the first round” and Preview so the Cloud PBX feature list is short, but more is coming in the area of Voice features.

More URL
https://www.skypepreview.com/Resources?expand=feature-2&option=350
https://blogs.office.com/2015/07/01/announcing-preview-of-new-skype-for-business-services-in-office-365/
https://sched-df.services.skype.net/