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Microsoft readies more Teams hybrid meeting features; frees up more LinkedIn remote-work courses

Microsoft is continuing to look for ways to make hybrid work better via Teams, Outlook, LinkedIn courses and more. Meanwhile, Microsoft's U.S. employees will continue to work primarily remotely for the foreseeable future.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is sharing its roadmap for more Teams features that it is planning for the coming months and announcing 36 LinkedIn courses that it temporarily is making free -- all in the name of trying to make the hybrid-work experience better. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced Microsoft's coming capabilities, as well as the decision to postpone Microsoft's U.S. worksite reopening date as part of a September 9 virtual event.

Microsoft has been adding new hybrid-work-focused features to Teams for the past couple of years. In June, officials announced a number of new Teams hybrid-meeting features that were in the works. Today's batch of Teams and Office features is meant to improve further the hybrid-meeting experience for users who often don't have the right hardware, software, conference rooms and other requirements to make hybrid meetings most effective, officials said.

See also: Microsoft again holds off reopening Redmond campus

Teams Rooms are going to be getting a new category of AI-enabled cameras that will be able to handle speaker tracking, multiple video streams and people recognition. The AI-powered speaker tracking will enable in-room cameras to use audio, facial movements and gestures to figure out who in a room is speaking and then zooming in on that person. Multiple video streams will allow in-room participants to each be placed in her/his own video pane. And people recognition will identify and display the profile name of enrolled users within their video panes. 

I've asked about timing for the new AI-camera features; no word back yet. Update: A spokesperson says: "Through our close partnership with industry-leading partners including Jabra, Neat, Poly, and Yealink, these features will be available to OEMs in the coming months and rolled out as updates over the course of the next year."

Microsoft also is working on a new PowerPoint feature called Cameo, which will integrate the Teams camera feed directly into a presentation so that a presenter can choose how and where they want to appear on the screen with their slides. I've asked for an ETA for this feature. No word back yet. Update: Early 2022, a spokesperson says.

Microsoft also is developing a new Outlook RSVP feature that will allow people to specify whether they plan to attend a meeting in-person or remotely. It is redesigning the Working Hours feature so that users can opt to put their work-schedule details in their calendars, letting others know when and where they'll be working. These new features are slated to begin rolling out in early 2022, officials said.

Microsoft also is updating the Companion Mode in Teams mobile to give in-room attendees quick access to chat, live reactions and Microsoft Whiteboard. The updated Companion Mode also will be designed to make it easier to access meeting and device controls, such as joining meetings, casting a PowerPoint, mute the room, turn cameras on and off, etc. The updated Companion Mode will be available "in the next few months," officials said today.

Microsoft will be adding a new hotdesking feature to Teams displays to make it easier for people to locate and reserve flexible workspaces in the office. This feature will enable them to book a space from the device or in advance using Outlook or Teams and to access their personal Teams calendars, chats, meetings and more. When an employee signs out, all that personal information will be removed from the Teams display device, officials said. I've asked for timing as to when this feature will be available. No word back yet. Update: A Microsoft spokesperson sent the following: "The hot desking experience is expected to be available on Lenovo ThinkSmart View by the end of 2021."

Officials also reiterated that Teams will be coming to Apple CarPlay this month, allowing users to join Teams meetings and make calls hands-free by using Siri.

Microsoft is making available later this month a public preview of its Viva Connections mobile app. Viva Connections, built on Yammer, Steam Video, Teams Live events and SharePoint intranet hubs, provides company communications and announcements inside Teams. Viva is Microsoft's employee-experience platform.

On the LinkedIn side of the house, Microsoft also is taking initiatives that officials said are designed to make hybrid work a better experience. LinkedIn is making 36 LinkedIn Learning courses free until October 9, 2021, so that LinkedIn members and HR professionals can expand their skills. Among the employee-focused topics are finding new jobs, avoiding burnout and adapting to hybrid work as the new normal.

LinkedIn also is rolling out new fields within job postings where organizations can publicize whether a job is remote, hybrid or on-site. And "soon," LinkedIn will also have a way for companies to share on company pages things like vaccination requirements, plans for returning to the office, etc.

Microsoft itself will be continuing to work largely in a remote way for the foreseeable future. The company had announced earlier this year that October 4 was its first possible date for fully reopening its U.S. work sites. But today, officials said they no longer have a new date and will wait for new public health guidance around COVID-19 before setting one. During the pandemic, 160,000 Microsoft employees have been working remotely and the company has onboarded 25,000 new employees, officials said.

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