With files from Tom Li.

It’s an annual tradition: Microsoft hosts an Ignite conference and announces a bunch of updates for Teams. The tech giant didn’t disappoint this year during its virtual conference.

Microsoft Teams Connect

Shared channel (Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft says Connect uses commonly used Teams capabilities, such as chat, meetings, app collaboration and real-time document co-authoring, all while maintaining control over how users access data and information. With Teams Connect shared channels, multiple individuals or organizations can share a single channel that all members can then access from their respective Teams environments.

Microsoft Teams Connect feature is currently available in private preview and will be made generally available later this year. 

New presenter layouts and audience views

Microsoft is introducing three new features to help presenters deliver presentations and other content more professionally and ensure high participant engagement. These include the PowerPoint Live feature, Presenter Mode, and the Dynamic View.

Presenter Mode (Source: Microsoft)

Now generally available, the PowerPoint Live feature in Teams feature will allow presenters to deliver more inclusive meetings and lead meetings with notes, slides, meeting chat and participants all in a single view. It will also allow attendees to navigate the content at their own pace and use high-contrast mode for a more personalized experience. 

With Presenter Mode, users will be able to deliver customized presentations to their audience. New options are coming soon, including Standout, which shows the speaker’s video feed in front of the shared content; Reporter, which shows content as a visual aid above the speaker’s shoulder; and Side-by-Side, which shows the presenter’s video feed alongside their content as they present. Microsoft says Standout will become generally available this month, with Reporter, Side-by-side and other options “coming soon.” 

Dynamic View (Source: Microsoft)

Dynamic View will become generally available in the coming weeks. It helps presenters place the gallery on top of the meeting window, helping maintain more natural eye contact with the audience.

Increasing engagement

Microsoft has introduced new gallery views in Teams Rooms, intelligent speakers, and certified hardware with audio and video optimized for Microsoft Teams meetings and calling.

Now generally available, the new gallery views include Together Mode and large galleries which allow all participants to see meeting content whether there is one screen in the room or two. 

Intelligent speakers, an important update for hybrid workplaces to be made available in private preview later this year, includes a special seven-array microphone that will use artificial intelligence to identify and differentiate the voices of up to 10 people in meetings and apply their name and profile to the live meeting transcript. To help ensure privacy and security, users can turn attribution on or off at any time.

In addition, Microsoft has certified the Dell Video Conferencing Monitor and the Poly Studio P21 which integrate a microphone, speaker, camera and lights (only in P21), all optimized for Teams meetings and calling. Employees can attach their PC via USB to get started.

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Microsoft says the new P15 Video Bar from Poly is an easy-to-mount peripheral that transforms an existing monitor into a Teams endpoint. Another Teams-certified peripheral, the new Cam130 by Aver, integrates lights as well, allowing users to present their best selves in video meetings.

Better security, privacy, and compliance features

Teams is getting new privacy updates to improve its compliance and offer greater data privacy. Teams will begin previewing end-to-end encryption for 1-on-1 calls in the first half of this year. Microsoft says users can selectively toggle this feature when passing sensitive information.

Invite-only meeting controls will be generally available this month. A disabled video option and multi-geo support, which organizations better control over where to store their Teams data, will arrive in the first half of 2021.

More interactive webinars attendees

Due to increased remote work, Microsoft has increased the number of view-only webinar attendees through Teams to 20,000 until the end of this year. It has also increased the number of interactive attendees–that is, those who can chat and video during the webinar–to 1,000. Teams will also be able to deliver post-event reporting to examine its engagement.

The new audience limit will be generally available starting this month.

Microsoft Viva enhancements

Microsoft announced the Viva employee experience platform in February to centralize learning tools and information for both workflow and personal wellbeing. It exists primarily as a complement to Teams.

Microsoft Viva Insights (Source: Microsoft)

Viva Connections, a personally-tailored company news hub, will be generally available in March. The module delivers personalized information to employees through Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft apps. The module supports SharePoint scheduling and audience targeting capabilities to create personalized employee experiences. Microsoft is also planning on releasing a mobile access portal sometime this summer. Viva Connections is free for existing Microsoft 365 and Office 365 customers.

The Viva Learning module will begin public preview in April. Viva Learning provides tools to help share and assign resources across an organization. Viva Learning is a paid addon for Microsoft 365. Pricing will be announced closer to general availability.

Microsoft said during the Ignite presentation that people spend seven weeks per year trying to decode jargons or label them. Thus, the company made Viva Topics, a module that consolidates company-wide content using AI. Viva Topics can organize fragmented information into easily searchable topics. Users can search for relevant information using Viva Topics without breaking their existing workflow. Viva Topics is available now as an add-on for Microsoft 365 customers.

Viva Insights, a module that tracks work activity and improves personal wellbeing, is now available in the Teams’ app store in public preview. The app can provide anonymous, aggregated reports on company-wide patterns and trends. Viva Insights will also gain some personal wellbeing features such as the virtual commute experience announced last year. Microsoft 365 and Office 365 customers will get an initial set of personal insights for free. Managers and organization insights are available as an add0on through Workplace Analytics.

 

 

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