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Microsoft Ignite Brings Slew of Teams Updates

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Someone using Microsoft Teams on a phone
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At its Ignite event today, Microsoft revealed a host of updates to Microsoft Teams and made several meeting room device announcements.
 
For meetings, updates include:
  • Together Mode enhancements — Together mode, which uses AI segmentation technology to place each meeting participant in a shared virtual background rather than in their own windows, will offer a selection of scenes beyond the basic auditorium-style seating available since the feature’s August introduction. Additional Together mode background options, selectable by the meeting presenter, will include more auditorium options, conference rooms, and coffee shops. These will be available later this year. In addition, Together mode will automatically scale and center meeting participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how far or close they are to their cameras, according to Microsoft.
  • Breakout rooms — This feature, due for availability next month, will allow organizers to break video meeting participants into smaller discussion groups. Presenters can hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all attendees, and return all participants to the main meeting.
  • Increased team size — Later this year, individual teams will support up to 25,000 members, though there is no limit to the number of people in a Teams tenant, according to Microsoft
  • Team templates — Available now, team templates are a predefined set of channels, tabs, apps, and settings that can be customized based on industry or role. For example, these templates can be used for project management or employee onboarding, and Firstline Worker templates can use them for things like organizing a store or collaborating with retail managers.
  • Custom meeting layouts — Coming later this year, meeting presenters can customize the layout of their meetings, which will leverage the same AI segmentation technology for background blur and Together mode. One way they can customize the meeting is by having a presenter appear in the foreground of a PowerPoint presentation, Microsoft said.
  • Meeting recaps — Following a Teams meeting, attendees will soon receive a recap with the meeting recording, a transcript, share files, and chat history. They’ll also have access to the recap through the Outlook calendar and to the meeting recordings in Microsoft SharePoint, where they’ll auto-save as files, according to Microsoft.
  • Streamlined Calling enhancements — Microsoft made several announcements related to Teams Calling. Coming later this year, an enhanced Calling experience will give a single view that shows contacts, voicemail, and calling history. A new Collaborative Calling feature allows an enterprise to connect a Call Queue to a Teams channel, which can be used for things like IT help desks or HR hotlines. Meeting features like transcription, live captions, and recording will also be available for 1-on-1 calls, Microsoft said. Lastly for Calling devices, Microsoft has expanded its portfolio with USB peripherals with dial pads and Teams interface and is working with AudioCodes, Poly, and Yealink to develop a line of Teams phones.
  • Home site app — Users can now directly access SharePoint from inside Teams through a home site app. An organization will be able to customize the app name and icon, as well as pin it to the app bar in Teams, according to Microsoft.
  • Updates for firstline worker deployments — Teams Walkie Talkie, which provides push-to-talk capability for firstline workers, is now available for Android devices. Also, now available is the integration with RealWear head-mounted devices. For firstline managers, a new virtual assistant will issue conflict alerts during the scheduling or change request approval processes, Microsoft said.
  • Workplace Analytics — Teams managers will have access to Workplace Analytics starting in October; this will provide them details on employees’ after-hour collaborations, meeting effectiveness, and "focus time."
 
Surface Hub Devices, Room Management Panel
Lastly, on the device front, Microsoft introduced its first space management panels for meeting rooms and released the latest Surface Hub digital whiteboard.
 
The Teams panels, for mounting outside meeting spaces, provide team members with room schedule and occupancy information, as well as the about to reserve the space and view and book alternative options with a “Nearby Rooms” feature. For the occupancy management, the panels connect to Teams devices like cameras to show real-time room capacity allowing companies to ensure meeting participants are meeting COVID-19 safety guidelines. Similarly, Microsoft said it will provide enhanced touchless meeting capabilities for its Teams Rooms devices. These will Teams casting, for displaying content from a smartphone via a wireless connection, and voice assistance.
 
As for the Surface Hub, the 2S 85-inch model will be generally available in January 2021; pre-orders are available in some markets today, Microsoft said. In addition, the just-released Windows 10 Team 2020 Update for all Surface Hub devices will be available on this latest model when it becomes available.

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