Microsoft Teams celebrates three years with new features, availability

Microsoft's Nadella, left, discusses Teams and COVID-19 with corporate VP Spataro. (Image: Microsoft)

Teams moves centre stage as the world goes home to work



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19 March 2020 | 0

Microsoft’s collaboration platform Teams is celebrating its three year anniversary with new features, wider availability and accessibility, as the world struggles with the Covid-19 emergency.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said the company’s top priority is the health and wellbeing of its customers and employees.

He said it was important to recognise the supporting role of technology for those working tirelessly to reduce the impact of Covid-19, from healthcare providers staying connected with telehealth solutions, schools and universities teaching via virtual classrooms and remote learning, to businesses of all sizes who are enabling employees to work remotely without sacrificing their ability to be productive and collaborate effectively, while staying secure.

In a video, Nadella was joined by Jared Spataro, corporate VP, Office 365, who shared some examples of how Teams was being used amid the crisis.

Live examples

A professor at University of Bologna, said Spataro, recounted via Twitter how the school moved 90% of courses online to Teams within four days, which was described as a “first in the university’s 900-plus year history”.

Doctors at St Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania, said Spataro, will use Teams for videoconferencing with patients, especially those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus, as a way to protect both patients and healthcare providers. And the City of Osaka in Japan is using Teams to conduct orientation and trainings for hundreds of new incoming employees in April.

Spataro said that Microsoft was sharing best practices and lessons learned from remote working employees and customers around the world to allow everyone to benefit. He said the collective experience would mean a changed environment for remote and home working.

“It is an inflection point. We are never going to go back to working they way we did,” said Spataro.

User milestone

Teams has also recently achieved a milestone, according to Spataro. The platform has passed 30 million daily users, and is in use with many famous names.

Accenture has more than 440,000 users, while EY, SAP and Continental AG all have more than 100,000 users each.

To improve accessibility and to allow greater access for both evaluation and usage during the current emergency, Microsoft has removed user limits on the free version.

It has also made available a six-month free offer, for businesses, hospitals and governments.

Spataro said that Microsoft wants to makes Teams available to as many people as possible so that it can support public health and safety, by making remote working and learning easier.

New features

Microsoft also introduced a number of new features and capabilities to Teams.

There is now an AI-driven, real time noise suppression capability that will suppress unwanted background noises, from noisy typing to paper rustling.

For large meetings, there is now a ‘raise hand’ feature that allows participants to attract the attention of the meeting coordinators to contribute without disruption.

For scenarios such as healthcare patient consults, client meetings, or job candidate interviews, B2C virtual consultations are more easily facilitated through improved scheduling, management and virtual appointments.

A new feature on the way soon, said Microsoft, is the ability to pop out chats into a separate window to help streamline workflows and move more easily between ongoing conversations.

For low or no bandwidth situations, new supports allow users to read chat messages and write responses, even without an internet connection.

For industrial workers to communicate and collaborate effectively while staying safe, there is a new integration with RealWear wearable technology for heavy industry and construction, in its range of head-mounted devices. Firstline workers will be able to access information and communicate hands-free with remote experts from their job site, said Microsoft.

There is also an expansion of the Teams devices ecosystem, with new devices certified for Teams. The Yealink VC210, now generally available, is the first collaboration bar certified for Teams, and brings together speakers, microphone, camera and the Teams app to deliver a meeting experience for smaller conference rooms that is simple to install and easy to manage, said the vendor. In addition, the Bose Noise Cancelling headphone 700 UC available for purchase in late spring.

There is also a Samsung partnership that will see Teams features accessible even from locked devices in the S10 smart phone range.

“Since we launched Teams three years ago, it has evolved to become the hub for teamwork – a place where you can meet, chat, call, and collaborate all in one place. We will continue to improve and expand experiences for all workers to be as productive and connected as possible. As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to push people everywhere into remote work and learning, enabling remote work for our customers has never felt more important, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do so,” said Spataro.

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