New in Microsoft Teams: Teams-Skype interoperability plus pop-out chat windows

Microsoft rolls out interoperability between Teams and Skype for consumers, part of phasing out Skype for Business.

Microsoft adds new features to Teams: Group chat can reach 250 users

Microsoft has rolled out Skype for consumers and Teams interoperability, plus a new feature that lets people easily break out a chat into a new window so they can continue working, taking video calls on the side. 

Skype numbers might not be growing like Zoom under the global pandemic, but there are still at least 200 million people who use the consumer version of Microsoft's video-calling service

The interoperability between Skype for Consumer and Teams across its native apps and browsers is designed to help businesses that have moved to Microsoft Teams, Microsoft has announced.

SEE: Microsoft Teams: How-to guide

"Teams and Skype interoperability will enable collaboration with more partners, customers, and suppliers who rely on Skype for Consumer (SFC) as their communication app," Microsoft said in a blogpost

"On either platform, customers will be able to discover users via email search, then chat or call using audio/video. Clients supported include Desktop, Web and Mobile (iOS/Android). Admins will be able to control user access to this feature from The Teams Admin Center."

Microsoft is running slightly behind schedule on interoperability between Teams and Skype for consumers, most likely due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

As ZDNet's Microsoft watcher, Mary Jo Foley, reported last year, Microsoft hoped to have this capability ready by Q1 2020. It was announced as part of its disclosure that Skype for Business Online will be laid to rest on July 31, 2021. 

Microsoft is also ramping up its push for enterprise customers to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams by way of a new 'Skype for Business Upgrade plan' within the Microsoft Teams Admin Center, which contains links to best practices and communication templates for businesses migrating from Skype for Business to Teams.

"Designed for Skype for Business customers with online or on-premises environments, the Skype for Business Upgrade plan shares a proven success framework for implementing change and step-by-step process to enable your organization's technical and end-user readiness," Microsoft said.

The new migration tool follows comments from Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Microsoft Teams chat rival Slack, that Microsoft was "forcing users from Skype for Business to switch to Teams". Microsoft denied it was forcing customers to switch but just giving them the choice until it phased out Skype for Business. 

Microsoft has also delivered a new chat pop-out feature for Teams that over 20,000 Teams users wanted to see. That is, the ability to create a pop-out window for each person they're chatting with, rather than relying only on separate tabs. 

Unlike static tabs, Teams users can now pop out one-to-one or group chats into their own window and then resize the window and move it around the desktop. Users can pop-out several conversations but not the same chat twice. 

There are a few ways to create a new window, the simplest of which is double-clicking the chat name. Otherwise, users can select Chat to open the chat list, find the name of the chat, and then select More Options, and then Pop out chat.

A 'Pop out chat' option is also available when hovering the mouse over a chat. The other option for IT pros is to type /pop in the command box at the top of Teams.    

The pop-out feature follows Microsoft expanding text group chats from 100 to 250 participants last month

SEE: Zoom security: Your meetings will be safe and secure if you do these 10 things

Over the coming weeks Microsoft is rolling out an improved launcher experience, offering users who are joining a meeting clickable option to either download the Windows app, continue using the opened browser, or to proceed with the Teams app. 

One option for teachers still conducting remote classrooms to maintain social distancing allows them to download a participant report with details about who joined and when participants left a meeting. 

Users can also get a report that includes users who joined while the organizer was present. The feature is available on Windows, Mac and via a browser.  

Microsoft is also rolling out policy controls for admins to select a default for who can present in new Teams meetings rather than the existing default control, which is 'everyone' unless the meeting organizer configures it differently. The policy can be set via a PowerShell cmdlet, and soon admins will be able to configure it in the Admin portal.