Microsoft has just dealt a new strike to Zoom with a tidal wave of new features to make meetings easier and more functional. Many of the features are aimed at enhancing Microsoft’s video conferencing service to be more like the real-life work environment as employees continue to work from come during the coronavirus pandemic.
Microsoft announced the Teams updates in a blog to coincide with its Ignite 2020 conference this week. So, what’s new?
First up is a handy tool in Teams to help you set the scene for your meeting. Together mode scenes will enable work colleagues to meet in a variety of settings including coffee shops, auditoriums and conference rooms.
Another very cool Teams feature coming in October is Breakout rooms, an ideal tool for people to split off into smaller groups during a meeting or conference. Presenters can hop between the breakout rooms, make announcements to all the rooms and close them to bring everyone back to the main meeting.
For those using Teams for structured meetings such as webinars, Microsoft is also rolling out features at the end of the year such as event registration with automated emails and automated dashboards to help understand engagement after the event has finished.
Another new Microsoft Teams feature, custom layouts, will allow presenters to control how content looks to participants. This means when a presenter shows a PowerPoint slide, others in the meeting will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.
Meeting recaps and other new capabilities
Meanwhile, available in the meeting Chat tab and Detail tab, meeting recaps will include the recording, transcript, chat and shared files for anyone unable to attend so they can easily catch up later. It’s well-integrated into other Microsoft services too—the meeting recap will also be available in the Outlook calendar afterwards.
Also coming later this year is a simplified calling experience in Microsoft Teams via a streamlined view showing contacts, voicemail and calling history at once so users can return the call with one click. At the same time, a capability aimed at IT help desks or HR hotlines called collaborative calling allows customers to connect a call queue to a channel in Teams.
Teams is also adding a new search experience powered by Microsoft Search to launch later this year. The tool aims to make it easy and quick to find messages, people, answers and files, using AI powered relevance linked to Teams and other Microsoft 365 services.
At the same time, Teams is expanding team membership—which is currently limited to 10,000—to 25,000 members per team.
The world is working from home, but small amounts of people are now returning to the office as a hybrid environment becomes a future reality. Another feature coming for Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows is able to warn meeting participants in a real-life room together if capacity is full as defined by IT admins, using cool people-counting technology. This helps organizations remind users of room capacities and social distancing practices, Microsoft says.
Microsoft Beats Zoom with Teams integration
Microsoft’s biggest rival in the video conferencing space is of course Zoom, which boasts a lot of functionality. But what Zoom doesn’t have is deep integration with the huge suite of services Microsoft has at its disposal. Microsoft had already started to deepen this further with multiple features and its new Advanced Communications offering, and it’s also announced more Microsoft 365 integrations coming soon.
These include wellbeing and productivity insights in Teams and SharePoint Home site in Teams, which can make things easier when managing a largely remote workforce. There are also sector specific feature updates coming for healthcare organizations and first line workers.
Another issue many people have with Zoom is security, although the service is launching end-to-end encryption for all very soon (which Teams doesn’t have). But Microsoft has already been pushing its credentials in this area and it’s soon launching Customer Key support for Microsoft Teams so users can add a layer of encryption using their own keys, similar to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive.
Other recent Teams features to rival Zoom include a number of improvements to Teams on both iPhones and Android smartphones and the ability to see up to 49 participants on a call.
Microsoft is certainly serious about adding new Teams features and this certainly makes the service worth a try, especially if you use other Microsoft services in your business.