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EC21 Keynote: Microsoft Shines Spotlight on Voice Services

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Nicole Herskowitz speaking at EC

Nicole Herskowitz, GM of Microsoft Teams, shared an update to Teams Phone at Enterprise Connect. 

Like in years’ past, Microsoft took the opportunity to share its vision for communications and collaboration during its keynote presentation at Enterprise Connect, which opened today. Surprisingly, in this year of video meetings galore, voice service got significant attention from keynoter Nicole Herskowitz, GM of Microsoft Teams — who even quipped that she said the word “phone” more than two dozen times during her talk.
 
After recapping recent changes to video meetings like intelligent cameras and people recognition, Herskowitz turned her attention to voice services. First, she shared that the Operator Connect PSTN connectivity option introduced earlier this year will be GA this week. With Operator Connect, admins will have the ability to choose a Microsoft-certified operator partner, assign phone numbers to users, and set up policies for an enterprise within the Admin Center, Herskowitz said. Operator Connect will launch with a dozen partners, with more to follow in the coming months, she added.
 
Besides Operator Connect availability, Herskowitz discussed a slew of Teams Phone and voice service updates:
  • Spam identification — With spam identification, GA today, Microsoft will identify likely spam calls, so users can quickly decline unwanted calls, Herskowitz said. Additionally, Microsoft will digitally attest outgoing calls to ensure external recipients receive them, Herskowitz added.
  • Ability to transfer between endpoints — Teams users can now transfer in-progress calls from one device to another. They do this by tapping on “move the call” from within the Teams app on the device they want to receive the call transfer.
  • One-to-one phone call transcription — By the end of this year, Teams users will be able to record and receive transcripts for one-to-one Teams Phone calls, Herskowitz said.
  • More Calling Plans locations —Microsoft has added Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Croatia to Calling Plans options, bringing the number of markets served to 33, as Herskowitz mentioned and Microsoft expanded on in a blog post.
  • SIP gateway service — Planned for GA this November, the service will bring Teams calling functionality, such as hold-and-resume transfers and the ability to dial in and out of meeting, to third-party SIP phones from Cisco, Poly, Yealink, and AudioCodes, Herskowitz said. Admins will be able to manage the service from the Teams dashboard.
Separately, Microsoft unveiled several other voice updates in a blog post. They are:
  • Expanded bring-your-own-contact-center options — Microsoft has certified contact center integrations from NICE InContact, Genesys, and Five9, bringing the total supported to eight, with an additional 12 currently planned, Microsoft said.
  • Walkie-talkie for desk phones — Beginning next month, users will be able to use a push-to-talk/walkie-talkie feature for calling.
  • Complementary call functions — Teams users can now answer mute, unmute, and end calls from either the device in use or the Teams client, Microsoft said.
Outside of voice-related enhancements, Herskowitz shared updates on Microsoft’s webinar capabilities. For example, teams will now be able to designate up to 10 webinar co-organizers. Co-organizers can manage event options and create polls, Herskowitz said. Additionally, Microsoft will revamp the webinar question-and-answer functionality, so organizers and presenters can mark best answers, moderate and dismiss questions, and pin posts like welcome messages, Herskowitz added.
 
Lastly, Microsoft will be a LinkedIn integrated preferred partner, which will allow teams to broadcast Teams webinars to LinkedIn directly. By adding the LinkedIn app to Teams, webinar hosts can schedule live events ahead of time and access real-time comments and reactions once the webinar is live, all within Teams, Herskowitz said.

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