Reimagining Virtual Collaboration for the Future of Work and Learning

Today we’re announcing a set of new features in Microsoft Teams that make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human. These features offer three key benefits for people at work and in education. First, they help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue. Second, they make meetings more inclusive and engaging. And third, they help streamline your work and save time.

It’s all about enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere. Let’s dig into the details.

Feel more connected and reduce meeting fatigue

Together mode—At a time when people are conducting more virtual meetings than ever, our research has shown that many of us feel less connected since moving to remote work, and experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration. Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class. Together mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people’s faces and body language and making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. It’s great for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorms or roundtable discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking. Together mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August. And we’ll bring more views to Together mode in the future.

Dynamic view—While Together mode offers an extraordinary new meeting experience, it’s not intended for every meeting. We believe that traditional video meetings people use every day can also be more engaging and dynamic. A set of enhancements we call dynamic view gives you more control over how you see shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants. New controls—including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side—let you personalize the view to suit your preferences and needs. Dynamic view builds on the meetings enhancements  include large gallery view, where you can see video of up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously, and virtual breakout rooms, which allow meeting organizers to split meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.

An image of the new Dynamic view.Dynamic viewAn image of the new large gallery view.Large gallery view

Video filters—We’ve all become familiar with video filters used in photography and social media apps, and now we’re bringing them to Teams. Before joining a meeting, you can use the filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize your appearance.

An animated image of background filters.

Reflect messaging extension—Our research shows that employee well-being is more important to productivity than ever. Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people healthy, happy, and focused. The new Reflect messaging extension gives managers, leaders and teachers an easy way to check in with how their team or students are feeling — either in general, or about a specific topic like work-life balance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organization. IT administrators will be able to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu. Once installed, the extension provides suggested check-in questions and the ability to add custom questions that team members can respond to in a poll-like experience. Managers or teachers can also choose to make poll results anonymous.

An image of reflect messaging extension.

Make meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective 

Live reactions—Non-verbal cues like smiles and head nods can be difficult to notice in online meetings, making it challenging for presenters to gauge audience reactions and for participants in large meetings to share a sentiment without interrupting the meeting flow. Soon, you will be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants. Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter. We are also bringing PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the future, further enabling audience engagement right from Teams.

An animated image of Live reactions.

Chat bubbles—During meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations, and chats all at the same time. Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. Soon, however, chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation. 

Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts—While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow along with what is being said in a meeting, soon we will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. Live transcripts, coming later this year, provide another way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.

Note: Remarks made by participants joining from a conference room device will be attributed to the room rather than to the individuals in the room.

An animated image of Live Captions with speaker attribution.Live Captions with speaker attribution

An animated image of Live transcription with speaker attribution.Live transcription 

Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow—There are times when it’s important to bring large groups together for meetings or classes. For more interactive meetings—where attendees can chat, unmute to talk, and turn on their videos for real-time collaboration—Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants. When you want to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion, Teams can support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.

Microsoft Whiteboard updates—Visual collaboration tools can make meetings and teaching environments more effective and inclusive. Whiteboard in Teams will soon be updated with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities. These features enable team members who don’t have access to a touchscreen or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.

An image of Microsoft Whiteboard updates.

Streamline your work and save time 

Tasks app– The Tasks app in Teams provides a new unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner, and Outlook. Smart lists like “Assigned to me” bring tasks together across different shared plans, whether you’re on desktop, web, or mobile. Add Tasks as a tab in a channel and get your familiar Planner tab experience with the new list view.

Suggested replies—Get your message across with just one tap! Suggested replies in Teams chat uses assistive AI to create short responses based on the context of the previous message. So the next time someone asks you “Do you have time to meet today?” you can respond “I sure do!” without even pulling up your keyboard. 

Cortana in Teams—Coming soon to the Teams mobile app, Cortana uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To stay connected to your team even when you have your hands full, you can ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security, and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available in the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English.

Microsoft Teams displays—Organizations need to enable their employees to set up more effective home office spaces while also preparing some to return to the office. To help, we’re introducing new Microsoft Teams display, a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices that feature an ambient touchscreen and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana. With natural language, users can ask Cortana to join and present in meetings, dictate replies to a Teams chat, and more. These devices seamlessly integrate with your PC, providing easy access to Teams chat, meetings, calling, calendar, and files. And with a camera shutter and microphone mute switch, your conversations stay private. The Lenovo ThinkSmart View will be the first Microsoft Teams display to market, and Yealink will deliver one of the first devices in this category too. Microsoft Teams displays with Cortana will be available in the U.S. starting later this year.

An image of PCs with Microsoft Teams desplays.

Touchless meeting experiences—As some people begin to return to their worksites, touchless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Today, Teams enables people to join meetings and share content to meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. Later this year, we’ll enable these capabilities on Surface Hub as well. We’re building on these capabilities with a new room remote in the Teams mobile app, which will provide additional meeting controls such as the ability to leave the meeting, mute and unmute the room, adjust audio volume, and turn cameras on and off. Beginning later this year, voice assistance will be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices, allowing in-room participants to ask Cortana to join and leave a meeting, add a participant from the address book to a meeting using their name or phone number, and more. We’re also introducing the ability to wirelessly cast to any Teams Room, collaboration bar, or Surface Hub device, enabling seamless ad-hoc in-person collaboration for people in a shared space.

Note: Voice commands will launch first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S., in English. Not all Teams Room audio devices will support Cortana voice assistance.

An image of Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices.
Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices

While the above capabilities are designed for work and school, we aspire to make Teams the platform for work, life, and learning.

And they all reflect our vision for the future of work: where everyone is able to contribute and do their best work; where they can move fluidly between experiences, apps, and devices; where AI lends a helping hand to streamline tasks, provide short cuts, and save you time; and where technology contributes to wellbeing and doesn’t detract from it.

From the kickoff call to the project’s launch—and all points in-between—Teams is the place where people come together to get work done. Working alongside our customers, we’ll continue reimagining the future of work and delivering technologies that put people at the center of every experience.

For more information on Microsoft Teams, please contact us

Take your communications to the next level with new offerings in Microsoft Teams

In recent months, the shift to remote and hybrid work has catalyzed organizations of all sizes, and across every industry, to rethink how their people and teams communicate and collaborate. Many of our customers are now navigating a new COVID-19 response phase, moving on from “remote everything” to a more sustainable, hybrid workplace, blending remote work and physical offices. They are investing in long-term resilience and strengthening their organizational agility, while proactively managing cost and risk of current economic uncertainty.

When it comes to communications, there is a broad spectrum of needs that are required to connect employees from the worksite to the main office to the home office—across locations and time zones. The spectrum starts with the most basic 1:1 meetings and calls with colleagues, to larger group meetings, all the way to large events and conferences. During the crisis response to the pandemic, many organizations transformed rapidly in group meetings first, as evidenced by Microsoft Teams reaching 200 million participants in a single day. Organizations looking to create more sustained transformation are seeing that Teams serves communications needs well beyond group meetings, taking communications to the next level with broad scale company-wide events. At the other end of the spectrum, Teams modernizes 1:1 calling with a cloud-based phone system in the same Teams app that keeps you in the communications flow.

Today we’re excited to announce new offerings and capabilities across all ends of the communications spectrum.

Scale with professionalism and control with Advanced Communications

Communication systems across the world are evolving to support customers’ changing needs.  As our customers are mastering using Teams for group meetings, they want to increase their reach, and use the same familiar tool to deliver online meetings and events at a much broader scale. Naturally, this scale requires both structure and admin control, to achieve a more professional, seamless, compliant experience. Today, we are excited to announce a new Advanced Communications set of capabilities to support these needs:

  • Scale your Teams meeting up to 20,000 participants. Reach larger audiences to stay connected with your employees, customers, and partners. When building this capability, we were focused on your meeting experience, making sure that even as the meeting scales it is still easy to manage and listen to the speakers.  Therefore, we limited the size of interactive meetings to 1,000 participants, with a seamless shift to a ‘view only’ mode after the limit is met.
  • Enhanced admin control. Use new capabilities and insert more structure to meetings, by adding your company’s branding to meetings for a professional look and feel. Start out with branded meeting lobby, launching in the coming months, and extend your branding to the core meeting experience coming later. Connect with business applications to manage at scale and automate workflows. Work with Teams certified solution partners and help your organization address business needs by setting up compliance recording policy or bringing in collaboration to your customer engagement workflows.

 

An animated image of the Custom branded background.

Custom branded background.

Each of these new capabilities will be enabled with the new Advanced Communications plan, which can be added to any Microsoft 365 or Office 365 paid subscription.

Give employees 1:1 connections with Teams Calling

Connecting 1:1 with colleagues, customers and partners is important, especially when meeting face-to-face can be challenging.  Employees in your organization can easily call each other from Teams without a phone number. For your employees who use phone numbers to make and receive calls with customers, partners, and vendors, those numbers need to be with them, wherever they are. With Teams Calling, a cloud-based phone system, employees can continue to do this whether they are in the office, working from home, or some combination of the two.

When using Teams, you are getting best-in-class calling capabilities—validated by Team’s leader position in both the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave reports.  With all your communication tools in one place, Teams Calling makes it easy to call anyone, anywhere with any device. And, you can also move seamlessly between chat, calling, and meetings based on your needs. This saves IT time, reduces costs associated with multiple point solutions, and diminishes the need for employee training. Teams Calling is a secure, robust solution that is being used by both large call centers and individuals alike. It can be deployed quickly using your existing calling plan or a Microsoft calling plan in select markets.

As communication is being reimagined, so are the tools that we use to communicate. Instead of a desk phone and other peripherals, we’re taking a fresh perspective on what a phone could be with our newest device innovation, Microsoft Teams displays. This is a dedicated Teams device featuring an ambient touch screen, high-quality calling and video, and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana.

An image of with Cortana built-in, the Lenovo ThinkSmart View and Yealink will be delivering the first Microsoft Teams displays in the U. S. later this year.

With Cortana built-in, the Lenovo ThinkSmart View and Yealink  will be delivering the first Microsoft Teams displays in the U. S. later this year.

We also realize that being able to use existing hardware can provide important cost savings when moving to a new phone system. Today, we are announcing extended support for Skype for Business (3PIP) phones beyond 2023, so you can continue to use your existing Skype for Business phones as you move to Teams. Additionally, we will be supporting core calling features on SIP phones from Cisco, Yealink, Polycom, and others with Teams. Support for SIP phones will be available in the first half of 2021.

For customers looking to modernize their phones, we are bringing a new line of Microsoft Teams phones with physical buttons, high-quality audio, and core calling features at an affordable price. These phones are designed for common areas and basic information worker scenarios, with options available from AudioCodes, Poly, Yealink starting early 2021. We are also expanding our portfolio to deliver new USB peripherals that have dial pads and a modern Teams user interface for heavy call users. These USB phones work out of the box, featuring a Teams button, and will connect to both a PC and Mac to bring a high-quality Teams audio experience. These will be available in late 2020.

To get started with Teams, contact us

Bring innovation anywhere with Azure’s multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid capabilities

As businesses shift priorities to enable remote work, take advantage of cloud innovation, and maximize their existing on-premises investments, relying on an effective multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid approach is even more important than it has ever been.

Since the beginning, Microsoft Azure has always been hybrid by design, providing customers consistency and flexibility in meeting their business needs and empowering them to invent with purpose. This is one of the many reasons that the world’s leading brands trust their businesses to run on Azure. As we expand our Azure hybrid capabilities, we give customers a holistic and seamless approach to run and manage their apps anywhere across on-premises, multi-cloud, and the edge. Today, we are releasing even more innovation in our Azure hybrid portfolio.

hybrid1

Azure Arc: Bring Azure to any infrastructure

In November 2019, Microsoft launched Azure Arc to give customers the flexibility to innovate anywhere with Azure. Azure Arc does two key things: first, it brings Azure management capabilities to any infrastructure, and second, it enables Azure services to run anywhere. Since its launch, Azure Arc has seen tremendous customer interest and adoption across all industries. Organizations such as Africa’s Talking, Avanade, DexMach, Ferguson, Fujitsu, KPMG, and Siemens Healthineers are already realizing value with Azure Arc. They use Azure Arc to manage and govern their resources more efficiently in distributed environments, and they use Azure Arc to bring Azure data services on-premises.

Today, we are announcing more innovation with Azure Arc:

  • Azure Arc enabled data services is now in preview. Now, Azure SQL Managed Instance and Azure PostgreSQL Hyperscale can run across on-premises datacenters, multi-cloud, and the edge. Customers can now take advantage of the latest Azure managed database innovation, such as staying always current with evergreen SQL, elastic scale, and a unified data management experience, regardless of whether it’s running in Azure, running in their datacenter, or running in a different public cloud. And, these data services work in both connected and disconnected modes. Customers are seeing wide-ranging benefits in improving their IT productivity and business agility with Azure Arc enabled data services. 
  • Azure Arc enabled servers is now generally available. Customers can seamlessly organize and govern Windows and Linux servers—both physical and virtual machines (VMs)—across their multi-cloud, multi-edge environment, all from the Azure portal. Customers can now use Azure management services to monitor, secure, and update servers, and audit them with the same Azure Policy across multi-cloud and multi-edge deployments. In addition, customers can implement standardized role-based access control across all their servers to meet important compliance requirements.  Learn more about Azure Arc.

Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Hub: Modernize on-premises datacenters

Today, we’re launching new Azure Stack capabilities to help customers modernize their datacenters:

  • Preview of Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) on Azure Stack HCI. AKS on Azure Stack HCI enables customers to deploy and manage containerized apps at scale on Azure Stack HCI, just as they can run AKS within Azure. This now provides a consistent, secure, and fully managed Kubernetes experience for customers who want to use Azure Stack HCI within their datacenters. 
  • Azure Stack Hub is now available with GPUs. To power visualization intense apps, we’ve partnered with AMD to bring the AMD Mi25 GPU to Azure Stack Hub, which allows users to share the GPU in an efficient way. The NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPU enables customers to run compute intense machine learning workloads in disconnected or partially connected scenarios. The NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU provides visualization, inferencing, and machine learning for less compute intense workloads. 

Azure VMware Solution: Seamlessly extend and migrate VMware workloads to Azure

Many customers want the ability to seamlessly integrate their existing VMware environments with Azure. Today, we are announcing Azure VMware Solution is now generally available. Designed, built, and supported by Microsoft, Azure VMware Solution is cloud verified by VMware and enables customers to migrate VMware workloads to the cloud with minimal complexity. The Azure service includes the latest VMware Cloud Foundation components such as vSphere, NSX-T, HCX, and vSan, and integrates with a rich set of partner solutions, so customers can continue to use existing tools and skills. In addition, with our licensing offering Azure Hybrid Benefit, Azure is the most cost-effective cloud to migrate your Windows Server and SQL workloads to, whether they run on VMware or elsewhere.

New innovation to run compute and AI at the Edge

Organizations are extending compute and AI to the edge of their network to unlock new business scenarios. Imagine that a retail store always stocks the right products at the right places, a hospital extends patient care to the most remote areas in the world, or a factory optimizes its performance level against capacity in real time. It’s what we call the intelligent edge. Azure offers a comprehensive portfolio of cloud services and edge device support to help customers realize these new use-cases.

Today, we are releasing new edge capabilities:

  • Azure SQL Edge is now generally available, bringing the most secure Microsoft SQL data engine to IoT gateways and edge devices. Optimized for edge workloads, this small-footprint container supports built-in data streaming, storage, and AI in connected or disconnected environments. Built on the same codebase as SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Edge provides the same industry-leading security, the same familiar developer experience, and the same tooling that many teams already know and trust. 
  • Two new Azure Stack Edge rugged devices are available. Customers can perform machine learning and gain quick insights at the edge by running the Azure Stack Edge Pro R with NVIDIA’s powerful T4 GPU and the lightweight, portable Azure Stack Edge Mini R. Both devices are designed to operate in the harshest environments at remote locations. 
  • Azure Stack Edge is now available with GPUs. Customers can run visualization, inferencing, and machine learning at the edge with the Azure Stack Edge Pro series powered by the NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU. This unlocks a broad set of new edge scenarios, such as automatically recognizing license plates for efficient retail curbside pickup, and detecting defects in real time in products on a manufacturing assembly line. 
  • AT&T builds cellular-enabled guardian module with Azure Sphere: AT&T and Microsoft are teaming up to enable enterprise customers to connect their machines and equipment securely by Azure Sphere guardian devices to the cloud seamlessly via AT&T’s cellular network, without needing to rely on Wi-Fi systems. This enables customers to connect their devices where Wi-Fi does not meet their security standards. For example, customers who operate franchises in third-party locations will be able to connect their machines directly to their own clouds, bypassing third-party-owned Wi-Fi. The AT&T powered guardian device expands Azure Sphere’s reach with the AT&T Global SIM that can operate in over 200 countries, and provides multi-layered, unified security from edge to cloud.

We look forward to sharing even more updates on our innovation in multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid!

To learn more about Microsoft Azure hybrid offerings, contact us

Overview of Microsoft 365 Business Premium

What is Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly Microsoft 365 Business) is a comprehensive subscription service for businesses with less than 300 employees. It integrates your favorite Office productivity apps and services, and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, with advanced security and device management capabilities.

Watch this video for a quick overview of Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

 

 

Small business security needs
Your business data can be compromised in many ways. You and your users can compromise your organization’s security when you sign in with compromised credentials or view organization data on different devices and applications. More specifically, your organization is at risk from:

  • Compromised or weak sign-in credentials.
  • Compromised device with a weak pin, or a user owned device.
  • Users who can copy/paste/save your organization’s data to personal apps.
  • Users who install and use third-party apps with weak security.
  • Email vulnerabilities, including sharing sensitive data, phishing attempts, malware, and so on.
  • When people who should not, can access documents with sensitive information.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium helps safeguard your data in each of these instances. The security features that protect your business data are detailed in the following figure.

How your data and devices are protected

Microsoft 365 Business Premium helps defended against threats by:

  • Scanning links in emails and documents in real time to block unsafe web sites (ATP Safe Links).
  • Performing advanced analysis of email attachments in a sandbox environment to detect newly developed malware (ATP Safe Attachments).
  • Enabling anti-phishing policies that use machine learning models and impersonation detection to provide protection against advanced attacks (ATP anti-phishing intelligence).
  • Setting up advanced policies that disable access from untrusted locations or bypass multifactor authentication from trusted places such as your office network (Azure MFA including trusted IPs, and Conditional Access).
  • Enforcing malware protection across all your organization’s Windows 10 devices and protecting files in key system folders from changes made by ransomware (Windows Defender)

Your business data is protected by:

  • Using automatic detection to help prevent sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or credit cards from leaking outside your business (data loss prevention).
  • Encrypting sensitive emails so you can communicate securely with customers or other people outside your organization. This ensures that only the intended recipient can read the message (Office 365 Message Encryption).
  • Controlling who has access to company information by applying restrictions such as Do Not Copy and Do Not Forward to email and documents (Azure Information Protection, Plan 1).
  • Enabling unlimited cloud archiving so you can retain all your organization’s email, including the mailboxes of former employees (Exchange Online Archiving).

Your devices are secured by:

  • Controlling which devices and users can access your Microsoft data, with options to block users from signing in from home computers, unapproved apps, or outside of work hours (Conditional Access).
  • Applying security policies to protect business data on iOS and Android devices. For example, you can require users to provide a PIN or fingerprint to access business data, and encrypt data on mobile devices (App protection for Office mobile apps).
  • Keeping business documents, emails, and other data within approved Office mobile apps and preventing employees from saving these to unauthorized apps and locations (App protection for Office mobile apps).
  • Remotely wiping business data from lost or stolen devices without affecting personal information (Intune selective wipe).
  • Using simplified controls to manage policies for all the Windows 10 PCs in your company, enforcing BitLocker encryption and automatically installing critical Windows updates (Enforce Windows update policies).

 

For more information on Microsoft 365, please contact us.