Is Skype for Business WebRTC?

It has been an exciting few days in the WebRTC world. We’re seeing movement from Microsoft, Cisco, WebRTC, and the IETF. If you haven’t heard the IETF released that the “mandatory to implement” codecs include VP8 and H264. While this seemingly kicks the can down the road at least we have a direction. The enterprises I talk to are 99% on the H264 bandwagon. It’s very difficult to displace a codec once it is in the market and we have H264 devices that will be around for at least 6 additional years. So anything we pick moving forward needs the backwards compatibility.

Is Skype for Business WebRTC?

This question is starting to come up because we’ve seen Microsoft announce additional ORTC support and Skype for Business within two weeks of each other. ORTC is seemingly positioning itself as WebRTC 1.1 which may sounds like a fork but I’ve been told it is not. I took a brief look look at the “shim” that the community is pitching showing how ORTC will have WebRTC 1.0 compatibility. I’m not convinced we will see much support for this “shim”.

Yes, Skype for Business is WebRTC albeit the ORTC side of the specification. I will speculate that we’re simply seeing Microsoft flex their muscle. They have Skype in the consumer market and Lync in the enterprise market to push forward ORTC and H264. This feels similar to how Microsoft has handled codec implementation in the Lync product. While everyone was on the H264 AVC bandwagon we saw Lync 2013 show up with H264 SVC.

While Skype has been traditionally a consumer market product we have to acknowledge what enterprises are evaulating. We saw Microsoft announce that Lync as a product name is on the way out so we needed to quickly understand how WebRTC fits into the picture. Let’s not forget that many enterprises use Lync and they all need to know the direction we’re going. Very soon we’ll most likely see a Skype for Business built around Office Web Apps server and the back end will be Lync Server 2015.

Microsoft gives you a new glass of water to drink every 3 years. You’ll get thirsty near the end of that 3 years wondering what is next. Before you know it you have another full glass and Microsoft expecting you to gulp it down as quickly as possible. Personally I’m getting a bit tired of this approach. Come back around every quarter and top off what we have in front of us.

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