Microsoft outlines more new Teams features coming to remote and on-site workers

Microsoft has plans to add new meeting, calling, search, insights and other new features to Teams over the next several months. Where's the Teams-fatigue-fighting feature?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It wouldn't be a Microsoft Ignite IT pro show without a slew of Microsoft Teams group-collaboration announcements. On Sept. 22, the opening day of the virtual conference, Microsoft officials shared the laundry list of planned features that it believes will benefit both those continuing to work remotely due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and those venturing back into offices. 

Also: Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet TechRepublic

A key focus of Teams is meetings. Microsoft plans to add new Together Mode scenes, such as coffee shops and conference rooms, this calendar year. (Together Mode is the shared-background feature allowing participants to appear as if they're in a space together.) Custom layouts also are coming later this year. Breakout rooms, which allow organizers to split up participants in a Teams meeting into smaller groups, is coming in October. 

Meeting recaps with a meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files, and more will be available later this year. The recap will be shared automatically in the meeting Chat tab and viewable in the Details tab, as well as be available in the meeting event in an Outlook calendar entry. And webinar support in Teams is coming by the end of the year as well. 

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft also is continuing to work on touchless meeting experiences with Teams, as it announced recently. Later this year, Microsoft plans to add Room Remote for Microsoft Teams Rooms, support for Teams casting for Teams Rooms, Proximity Join on Surface Hub, and Cortana voice assistance for Teams Rooms on Windows. Microsoft is working on using data from meeting room cameras that are equipped with people-counting technology so meeting room capacity notification alerts can be added to Teams Rooms on Windows. And "Teams Panels" devices are coming from Creston, Yealink, and other partners, which can be mounted outside a physical meeting space and help handle space management (reservations, availability status, book another nearby room, etc.).

Microsoft will be adding a new calling experience to Teams later this year, which will provide a simplified view of contacts, voicemail, and calling history all at once. Microsoft is adding new collaborative calling functionality for scenarios like helpdesks and hotlines so that users can connect a call queue to a team's channel.

Microsoft will be tweaking the search experience in Teams to take advantage of its Microsoft Search unified search technology. Officials said this will make finding messages, people, answers, and files easier and faster. The new search will also use "AI-powered relevance" that prioritizes people and content users engage with most frequently in Teams and other Microsoft 365 services. 

Also: Microsoft makes its video calling, chat, and SMS text messaging services available to others

Microsoft will be adding new "well-being" and productivity insights generated by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics to Teams starting in October. Other more touchy-feely features like "virtual commute," integration with the Headspace meditation app, and "an emotional check-in experience" are coming in the first half of 2021.

Customer Key support for Teams will be available in public preview before the end of 2020. This adds a layer of encryption for customers using their own keys for Teams, similar to what's available for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive.

There are a lot more new Teams features listed in Microsoft's Ignite blog posts, including bulk policy assignment, delegate device admin functions, meetings extensibility via Power Platform, an enhanced Power BI app for Teams, integration with Adobe Sign and DocuSign for approvals, and more. I wish there were a feature for Teams new-feature fatigue, which I think is going to be a real issue (if not already) for Teams admins and users.

In other productivity and collaboration news at Ignite, Microsoft officials said they will make available the promised 85-inch version of the Surface Hub 2S large-screen, multi-touch conferencing system starting in January 2021 starting in the U.S. Preorders begin today, September 22, via select resellers. Microsoft officials have not provided a public update as to if and when the company will offer the 2X upgrade for Surface Hub, but earlier this year, word was Surface Hub 2X was postponed beyond this year and possibly indefinitely.

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