Teams, The State of Application Sharing

Like a train with no brakes, we should be seeing some fantastic feature updates to Microsoft Teams in 2018 (Capabilities Roadmap). It’s well known that the intention is to ultimately replace Skype for Business Online services with Microsoft Teams, but when organisations choose to comply with that intention will depend largely on when the Teams features they consider to be mandatory, come to market. At the end of 2017, Application Sharing became available in Microsoft Teams, another “Teams can do what Skype can do” tick in the box?… not quite. The purpose of this post is to highlight the fact that just because a feature has been announced as generally available in Teams, it doesn’t mean that it will provide identical functionality to it’s Skype for Business counterpart. It also serves as an article that calls out the current differences in Application Sharing specifically.

The following points detail examples of how Application Sharing functionality and behaviour differs between Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. (we’ll assume that application sharing also includes desktop sharing). I’ve steered clear of Skype collaboration tools such as white-boarding and polling, as well as the content management options which relate to those feature more so than desktop and application sharing.

Application Sharing from Chat
In Skype for Business you can initiate application sharing from an existing instant message, audio, or video call. Microsoft Teams only offers the ability to perform application sharing from an existing audio or video call – you cannot share an application with someone you are simply chatting to through instant messaging (Chat). This means that you’d have to call that person before you can share something with them. This is the comparison feature that people have been most vocal about on the Microsoft Teams User Voice feedback community, clocking up over 2200 votes for change, and sitting in the top ten most requested features. Unfortunately the update provided at the end of  2017 states that the engineering team have suspended work on this feature, which has been moved to backlog for the time being.

Some Applications cannot be Shared
In Skype for Business you have the ability to share your entire desktop (choosing one if you have multiple), or any other currently open application window. The sole exception to this is the Skype for Business client application itself – it can’t share itself. Microsoft Teams provides similar functionality but also allows you to share the Teams Application window, so unlike Skype for Business it can share itself. However one thing I have noticed with Microsoft Teams is that not all applications can be shared, and it appears to be hit and miss. For example; You can share an internet explorer window, but you can’t share an Edge window. You can share a Fiddler Traffic Analysis window, but you can’t share a Wireshark window. You can share Windows Media Player, but you can’t share VLC Media Player. I didn’t spend to much time pondering over this, but if anyone knows why this might be (architecture perhaps) I’d appreciate the feedback. Fortunately there are no issues with office suite applications, and you could always work around the problem by sharing the full desktop – although I guess that negates the point of specific sharing.

Granting Control of a Shared Application
Skype for Business allows users who are currently sharing an application or desktop to delegate control of that session to a remote party, and to revoke that control at the click of a button. The remote party is also able to request control of a shared application, at which point the application owner is notified by a pop-up banner through which they can accept or decline the request. Microsoft Teams does not currently offer any control delegation at this time; only the person who originally shared the application may control it. A common use case for application sharing within Skype for Business is based around desktop support, where users share control of their desktops with support staff for assistance – not a scenario that could be catered for at this time within Teams. Control delegation is a large part of application sharing, which is again reflected in the Microsoft Teams User Voice feedback community, clocking up 1200 votes for its introduction. It’s interesting to note that control capabilities were pencilled in for release in Q4 2017 at the same time as application sharing itself.

Multiple Displays
I’ve found the application sharing experience in Microsoft Teams to be particularly suited (or perhaps restricted) to a single screen setup.

As a presenter, when you share an application, the Teams application itself is reduced to a minimalistic window with basic call controls. This is obviously ideal in single screen configurations as it would be in the way of what you’re sharing, but with multiple displays I find it annoying that sharing something on another screen causes my Teams Application to minimise – which I immediately make full screen again. In contrast Skype for Business brings the shared application to the forefront, so if what you’re sharing isn’t on the same screen, your view of Skype doesn’t change. It doesn’t however provide minimised call controls during sharing, so you have to go looking for your Skype application again in the taskbar when you need it.

As a viewer of shared content in Microsoft Teams, you can easily switch focus between shared content and someone’s video stream with a single click. Items not in focus appear along the bottom of the application window in a gallery style view. However we’re restricted to the single Teams application window; you can’t pop video feeds out onto a separate screen and maximise them whilst viewing content – it’s either video feed or content, all self contained within the single Teams window. Ultimately you don’t get a richer more optimised shared content experience by using more than one monitoring with Teams – but you do with Skype for Business.

View Content as Actual Size
If someone shares text based content such as a webpage or spreadsheet, the default  ‘fit to window’ view often makes the text too small to read. Skype for Business has the option to ‘view content as actual size’, introducing scroll bars to the sharing window and making text legible. Microsoft Teams has no such functionality at this time, and text based content can be difficult to read when shared.

Dedicated PowerPoint Sharing
To share and present a PowerPoint deck in Microsoft Teams, you simply share the PowerPoint application as you would any other program, and conduct your presentation accordingly. Skype for Business provides dedicated PowerPoint presentation functionality outside normal application sharing; it allows for the use of additional annotation tools during the presentation including laser pointers, pens, and highlighters etc. If permitted, users are able to browse forward and back through the deck at their own pace (private viewing), download the content, and return to the ‘presenters view’ with a single click.

Permission & Control
Both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams have the ability to enable or disable application sharing. Skype for Business offers more granular control whereby differing(conferencing) policies can be assigned to users, allowing some users to have the capability, and others to not. Teams control is global, whereby you either enable screen sharing for your entire tenant, or you don’t. Skype for Business also provides users with the ability to prevent other people from high-jacking their calls or meetings with their own shared content through the Presenter & Attendee roles, where Attendees are ‘sit back and spectate’ users who are unable to share applications or content. In a Microsoft Teams there are no such roles, and anyone in a Teams call or meeting can start sharing an application, which will cause the current presenters session to end abruptly.

So as you can see, although Application Sharing is available on both platforms, there are some fairly stark differences in behaviour. I’ll finish by stating that this content is very much time sensitive, and it may not be an accurate reflection of Microsoft Teams capabilities if you’re reading it long after its publication date. Improved collaboration tools and user level meeting polices are both on the horizon for Teams, and could very well improve application sharing capabilities.

Comparing Skype for Business and Teams is like comparing a cat to dog… a dog that will eventually turn into a cat.

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3 Responses to Teams, The State of Application Sharing

  1. Good blog.
    What I am also interested in in what Teams application/desktop sharing can do towards a Skype On-premise client. When moment comes everyone moves to teams, they can share with Skype On-premis anymore.

    • Ben Donaldson says:

      Thanks Jako, and that’s a very valid point; Skype for Business Server 2019 will definitely ensure a significant number of Microsoft UC consumers remain with an on-premises solution. Although application sharing isn’t as common a scenario to external organisations, it doesn’t negate the hybrid scenario that we could find ourselves in with Skype for Business Server 2019 – a good point.

  2. John Shkolnik says:

    Hi,

    Have you encountered any instances where the Teams desktop doesn’t have sharing despite being on same version as a colleague in same domain? We can’t figure out what’s causing it.

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