Surface Laptop Go – the most “affordable” Surface yet

Surfac eLaptop Go Picture

Microsoft has released the much-anticipated sibling to the Surface Go with the announcement of the Surface Laptop Go (which is a bit of a mouthful) that starts at just £549 – for reference this is about half the price of the cost of its big brother, the Surface Laptop 3 which makes the Laptop Go could a seriously tempting device for anyone or any business that is bought into the Surface Brand but doesn’t need the size or power of the premium range.

The Laptop Go is to date, the most “affordable” laptop in Microsoft’s Surface line-up. 

Image of Surface Laptop Go

Is this like the Surface Go?

If you think of the Surface Go 2 as the “baby Surface Pro”, then the Laptop Go is a “baby Surface Laptop 3″ with a 12.4” screen.  It is a smaller, lower-spec device than the Surface Laptop 3 for sure, but it also is quite an uplift from the internals of the Surface Go 2, launched back in March.

The good news is that unlike the Surface Go (which I am a huge fan of and reviewed here), Microsoft has been far more generous with the technical internals of the Laptop Go and hasn’t cut corners on the processor. The Laptop Go features 10th Gen Intel’s Core i5 processors (the Surface Go uses the M3), which provides plenty of performance to handle everyday tasks such as web browsing, watching videos and working on big doc, presentations and spreadsheets.

The Laptop Go is also surprisingly accessory-friendly, with both USB-C and USB-A connections, along with Microsoft’s standard Surface port.

Surface Laptop Go is also hot on security, with Firmware TPM and Fingerprint Power Button for password-free One Touch sign-in on all but the base model. Weirdly there is no Windows Hello camera, which I was surprised at given it’s been a key feature on every Surface model since the Pro 5 and is even in the most entry level Surface Go 2. 

Designed for on the “Go”

Like the Surface Go, the small form factor of the Laptop Go means it is easy to pop into a bag or simply carry round and despite its weight (at just 1.1Kgs), it does look and feel (so they say) every bit like a Surface. Battery power is claimed to be around 13hrs and supports fast-charging – which can take you from zero to 80% charge in just an hour.

One thing which I had assumed would be an option, is lack of support for mobile data (LTE/4G) which I presumed would be there – it seems the LTE variant is still only available in the Surface Go and Surface Pro X range.

Laptop Go

The Laptop Go comes in blue, platinum and sandstone colours.

Compromise or Upgrade?

To keep the price point of the cheapest Laptop Go cheap, there are some compromises in the £549 model.

  1. Graphics: Being a more “budget” Surface device, graphics power is one place where there is some compromise. The Laptop Go includes the more entry level ‘Intel UHD’ graphics chip, compared with the significantly more powerful ‘Intel Iris Plus’ which is included within the Surface Laptop 3.
  2. RAM – The entry level Surface Laptop Go comes with only 4GB RAM which is really the bear minimum anyone should have in a device these days! This is fine if you are mainly using web apps and only a few apps, but if you plan on doing lots of multi-tasking and don’t want to have to keep closing apps to free up memory, you’ll want to  opt for the 8GB version,
  3. Storage – The entry level Laptop Go has just 64GB of the cheaper, more basic ‘eMMC’ storage which isn’t as fast as the solid-state drives (SSD) found in the higher specification models.

A small upgrade – makes all the difference

The shortcomings high-lighted above can be easily overcome by throwing a little more money at the Laptop Go.

If you go for the next model up in the range (which is an extra £149), you get

  • A faster and larger (128GB) SSD
  • 8GB of RAM.

If you want even more, you can change the config up to 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD, though personally at this level I’d be looking at “grownup” Surface!

When can I get one?

It’s available for pre-order now with delivery dates from 27th October 2020 in the UK


Microsoft announces refreshed Surface Pro X and new Surface Laptop Go

1st October 2020 and Microsoft has officially announced the 2020 line up of new Surface devices. Here’s a quick summary of the new devices that were announced:

New Surface Laptop Go

A new baby is born – a 12.5-inch Surface Laptop Go starting at just under £499, and like the Surface Go, brings the features most loved by Surface Laptop customers to a smaller, more affordable design and is the “lightest, most affordable Surface laptop yet“.

  • Surface Laptop Go – has a 12.4″ touchscreen display, large precision trackpad and a full-size keyboard. This comes in comes in three lightweight metal finishes: Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum and has secure sign-in options including Windows Hello and optional Fingerprint Power Button with One Touch sign-in through Windows Hello. The new Surface Laptop Go has an Intel’s 10th Gen i5 Quad-Core processor under the hood with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. So much more of a power horse than the Surface Go and Go 2. 

Updated Surface Pro X

An updated version of last year’s Surface Pro X featuring a new Microsoft SQ 2 processor, which like last year’s SQ1 processor was built by Microsoft and Qualcomm and is stated to be “the fastest processor in its class” and claims to be able to deliver 15 hrs of battery life. This is available to order now and starts shipping on October 13th.

  • This new Microsoft SQ 2 processor for the Surface Pro X will be coupled with a more powerful Adreno 690 GPU and will be available in the new top end Surface Pro X with 16GB of RAM and will be around £1,400. The Surface Pro X with the existing SQ1 processor will keep its £900 starting price, and Microsoft also announced that they are adding a new Platinum finish as an alternative to the original Matte black colour in the Surface Pro X. 

Both Surface Pro Xs retain the same great look and design with 13” PixelSense Display, and ports as the original model with the SQ 1 processor, though the new chip is promised to deliver significant performance improvements over last year’s already supper fast Surface Pro X.  Both models come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 LTE modem that supports Gigabit LTE speeds – no news on a 5G model yet (unless I missed that bit of the announcement).

 

What’s the future of ARM on Windows 10?

Good question – Microsoft also announced just yesterday that more native apps will soon be coming to the ARM for Windows 10 platform including a native ARM64 version of Microsoft Teams which is well overdue.

Microsoft also said that from November, Microsoft will be testing support for x64 emulation with Windows Insiders, which should really help to fix the app compatibility issues on Windows 10 on ARM and should also see better performance for apps. 

The Surface Pro X is still Microsoft’s thinnest ever Surface Pro tablet, and it’s also the first Surface tablet to ship with two USB-C ports, a removable SSD, and above all a Firmware TPM chip for enterprise security. 

The 2020 Surface Family Portrait – the family keeps growing

Surface Family 2020
2020 Surface Line up (C) Microsoft.

Microsoft Defender now unifies SIEM and XDR

At #Ignite2020 (September 2020), Microsoft announced a change to their Security and threat protection with a new, unique approach designed to “empower security professionals to get ahead of today’s complex threat landscape” with fully integrated SIEM and XDR (eXtended Detect and Response) tools from a single vendor so you get the best of both worlds. – much of the summary below is taken from the wider Microsoft Blog.

As part of this, Microsoft are unifying their XDR tech under the Microsoft Defender brand.

“The new Microsoft Defender is now the most comprehensive XDR in the market and prevents, detects, and responds to threats across identities, endpoints, applications, email, IoT, infrastructure, and cloud platforms”.

With Microsoft Defender, Microsoft are both rebranding our existing threat protection portfolio and adding new capabilities, including additional multi-cloud (Google Cloud and AWS) and multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS) support.

Microsoft Defender is delivered in two main areas,

  • Microsoft 365 Defender for end-user environments and
  • Azure Defender for cloud and hybrid infrastructure.

Microsoft 365 Defender

This delivers XDR capabilities for identities, endpoints, cloud apps, email, and documents, using AI to reduce the SOC’s work items. Microsoft claims this can consolidated 1,000 alerts to just 40 high-priority incidents and that built-in self-healing technology fully automates remediation with a success rate of over 70%, ensuring the SOC can focus on “other tasks” that better leverage their knowledge and expertise.

An image of the Microsoft 365 Defender dashboard.

As part of this, the following branding changes have also been made to the Microsoft 365 security services:

  • Microsoft Threat Protection is now Microsoft 365 Defender

  • Microsoft Defender ATP is now Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

  • Office 365 ATP is now Microsoft Defender for Office 365

  • Azure Advanced Threat Protection is now Microsoft Defender for Azure

As well as the name change, several new features are now also available or coming:

  • New mobile for Apple iOS (now in Preview) and Android support now released. As a result, Microsoft now delivers endpoint protection across all major OS platforms.
  • Extension of the current macOS support with addition of threat and vulnerability management.
  • Priority account protection in Microsoft Defender for Office 365 will help security teams focus on protection from phishing attacks for users who have access to the most critical and privileged information. 

Azure Defender

Azure Defender is an evolution of the Azure Security Center threat protection capabilities and is accessed from within Azure Security Center and delivers XDR capabilities to protect multi-cloud and hybrid workloads, including VMs, databases, containers, IoT, and more. 

An image of Defender.

Aligned with the Microsoft 365 brand changes, there are also new name changes as well as some new features naturally!

  • Azure Security Centre Standard is now Azure Defender for Servers
  • Azure Security Centre for IoT is now Azure Defender for IoT 
  • Advanced Threat Protection for SQL is now Azure Defender for SQL 

Along with the name change, these new features were also announced: 

  • New unified experience for Azure Defender that makes it easy to see which resources are protected and which need protection.
  • Added protection for SQL servers on-premises and in multi-cloud environments
  • Added protection for virtual machines in multi-cloud
  • Improved protections for containers, including Kubernetes-level policy management and continuous scanning of container images in container registries.
  • Support for operational technology networks with the integration of CyberX into Azure Defender for IoT.

The video below from Microsoft shows how it all works

Video from Microsoft Mechanics on the New Microsoft Defender

 

And finally…. let’s not forget Azure Sentinel

Whilst the XDR capabilities of Microsoft Defender delivered through Azure Defender and Microsoft 365 Defender provides rich insights and prioritised alerts, to gain visibility across your entire environment and include data from other security solutions such as firewalls and existing security tools, we connect Microsoft Defender to Azure Sentinel, Microsoft cloud-native SIEM.

Azure Sentinel is deeply integrated with Microsoft Defender so you can integrate your XDR data in only a few clicks and combine it with all your security data from across your entire enterprise.

An image of Azure Sentinel.

You can read the full Microsoft Blog on this here:

Microsoft Ignite ‘flooded’ with these incredible new #MicrosoftTeams enhancements

Day one of Ignite yesterday (Sept 22 2020), was full of many new announcements across Microsoft 365, Azure and Power Platform but day 1 was certainly dominated by a new stack of updates coming now or very soon to Microsoft Teams, with the list including well-being tools for employees, calling enhancements, new webinar features and breakout rooms and a whole lot more.

Here’s my review of the key new features. There’s also a quick video I recorded from the main Teams session…

Virtual Commute

With the virtual commute feature, Teams users will be able to schedule a virtual commute to structure their day so they can have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening.

As part of Virtual Commute, Microsoft has partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness experiences and science-backed meditations into Teams based on the user’s day, and how busy their day appears from their activity across Teams and Office 365. This is designed to help make it easier for employees to find time to relax and recover and therefore better focus.

There’s a lot of activity happening in Teams, we can see that. We also hear people telling us that there are adverse effects and that leads us to product strategy and what you’re seeing at Ignite,” said Microsoft executive Jared Spataro.

The sudden transition to working from home during the pandemic has completely upended the lives of workers around the world.”

While many employees used to use their morning commute as a chance to relax or reflect on the day ahead of them, the switch to remote working has taken this personal time from them. To make matters worse, many organisations now expect their workers to begin their jobs right at the start of the day since they no longer need to travel to and from the office.

According to a study from Microsoft Research, commutes can serve as meaningful transitions at the beginning and end of the workday and in fact, the reflection done during this time can increase productivity by 12 to 15 percent.

New Well-being tools

New Insights in Teams powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics

With rollout starting in October and with new enhancements coming over the new few months, is a new set of well-being features and productivity insights for Microsoft Teams.

This will be powered by a combination of MyAnalytics and a new Workplace Analytics experience designed for Teams, Microsoft said that this aims to will gives individuals, managers, and business leaders powerful insights which are personalised about their roles and their teams within work and to ensure employees and employers can focus more effort and energy into their people (the heart of their business) helping everyone to focus on their work, and be their best.

Teams users will see recommended actions to help them  make changing their work habits and improving their productivity and well-being easier. Examples include suggested tasks for the day, reminders to have breaks and taking time away from the screen which will be delivered to your Outlook inbox.

In addition, a new stay connected experience will also help individuals strengthen relationships with their colleagues by making it easy to praise top collaborators for key achievements and to schedule one-on-ones to catch up.

Finally, there will be new insights tab in Teams that allow leaders to ask natural questions like, “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?”

Webinar Registration and reporting

For more structured meetings and events such as customer webinars, meeting and event organisers will soon be able to use powerful event registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance. Ater the meeting, you’ll be able view a detailed reporting dashboard that will help understand attendee engagement. These new features are expected to begin to roll out by end of 2020 – and i suspect the Advanced Communications license will be needed to use these features (just a hunch).

News Teams Webinar Experience – Coming Q4 2020

Teams Templates

Teams templates, which are now in the rollout phase, are designed to help teams get started faster and be more effective. Teams owners can now choose from common business scenarios, such as event management or crisis response, and industry-specific templates, like a hospital ward or bank branch. Each template comes with pre-defined channels, apps, and guidance and admins can create their own for your organisation.

New Teams Templates – Rolling out now

New backgrounds for Together mode

New Backgrounds to Together Mode coming Q4 2020

Promised between now and the end of 2020, Together Mode feature will see some improvements with new Together mode scenes which will include conference rooms and a coffee shop and later, the ability to add your own such as meetings rooms from your own office. Microsoft hopes these features can help people feel connected and engaged from anywhere and reduce fatigue caused by regular grid view meetings.

With these improvements, like custom backgrounds in video chats, presenters will soon be able to select a scene from the gallery as the default scene for all together mode meeting attendees. Microsoft said they will also be enhancing the feature further to automatically scale and center participants in their virtual seats, regardless of how close or far they are from their camera.

Additionally, custom layouts in Teams meeting (not just Together mode) will allow presenters to customise how meeting content is displayed for participants during the meeting.

Similar to a weather forecast or the news, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the content being presented on screen making for a more professional presentation.

Breakout Rooms

New Breakout Rooms – Coming October 2020

Already in preview for education, Teams meetings is getting a much-anticipated breakout room feature.

This highly requested feature will allow meeting organisers to split participants into smaller groups (manually or automatically) so they can have their own discussions. It’s ideal for brainstorming and workgroup discussions or for running event with multiple streams or optional sessions for example.

This means presenters will then be able to hop between different breakout rooms and make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting room. Participants will still be able to access the notes, chat, files and whiteboards from the breakout session after the breakout rooms close.

Collaborative Calling

Starting rollout from the end of this month, is a new set of calling improvements for Teams.

One of these is Collaborative Calling, which enables users better collaborate and share information from within the channel while taking calls from employees or their customers in the queue.

Also included are a host of improvements to transcription, live captions, recording, and the ability to transfer between Teams mobile and desktop apps when doing one-on-one calls seemlessly.

Microsoft also said that their new  live captions with speaker attribution is now generally available (though I don’t see it yet). This provides a live and recap service for the meeting which includes the recording, an online transcript, chat, shared files, and more.

New Microsoft Teams panels

As employees begin to return to the office, part time, occasionally or permanently, meeting rooms will provide a welcome change to their work from home setups and will likely be at a premium.

To make it easier for workers to know when a meeting room is occupied, Microsoft has unveiled a new category of devices called Microsoft Teams panels that can be mounted outside of a meeting space.

These devices are essentially small tablets that can also use information from other connected certified Teams devices such as cameras to show room capacity information and help workers follow their organisation’s social distancing guidelines.

OK.. There is more…

In addition to these main announcements yesterday, Microsoft also announced several new smaller enhancements to Teams which include:

  1. New Search Experience
  2. Ability to create tasks directly from a team’s chat or channel
  3. New Cortana powered hands-free meeting controls in Teams Rooms

Let me know what I missed….

6 new countries added to Microsoft Cloud Calling Plans

Microsoft made a big announcement today as it announced an additional 6 countries that it is adding to its coverage of Microsoft provided calling plans which will be available from the 1st October 2020.

This is big news seeing Microsoft has not added a country since May 2018 so adding 6 countries is a big deal!

What countries are being added?

  • Austria
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

The addition of these 6 countries in to the already available list of countries that support the Calling Plans Microsoft increases the total number of counties to 16, with the total list now being

  • Austria
  • Australia (via local telco)
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan (via local telco)
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Microsoft is adding the following countries to its list of countries in which customers can consume callimg plans directly from Microsoft or their license/CSP partners.

Direct Routing is also an option for customers wishing to keep their own SBCs, their own SIP provider/carriers or where callings plans are not available is specific counties.

Official notice on the Microsoft 365 Public roadmap



A new world of possibilities comes to SurfaceHub2S

In Brief

  • The Surface Hub 2S now supports the installing of Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise.
  • Switching to Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise transforms the Surface Hub 2S into a more traditional PC with all the benefits such as any app and support for Windows ATP
  • The Surface Hub 2S users can also continue to use the device with its current version of Windows which is still fully supported for collab and Microsoft Teams only uses.

The detail…

Microsoft has just announced that it is making available Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise as an OS install option for the 50-inch Surface Hub 2S.

The device currently runs Windows Team edition, a flavour of Windows 10 (not too dissimilar from Windows 10 mobile) tailored for the collaboration displays such as Hub.

Why run Windows 10 Pro/Ent?

By installing Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise on the Surface Hub 2S, organisations will be able to install and run any app they choose, plug in and use and use Windows 10 compatible accessory, and even use Windows Hello Biometrics with a new dedicated Surface Hub 2 Fingerprint reader coming later in September (not seen pricing yet).

In comparison, the Windows 10 Team OS that ships on the Surface Hub 2S was purposely restricted to Microsoft Store apps (a bit like Windows 10 Mobile and event Windows 10 in ‘S’ mode) , and it supports inbuilt custom drivers only. In summary the native Windows 10 Team OS is a version of Windows that was indeed designed and optimised for multi-use and immersive collaboration experiences, but the ability to run full Windows 10 has been a big ask, especially from enterprise organisations.

Organisations can now choose whether to remain with the native SurfaceHub experience or install Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise.


Microsoft said in their blog announcement that “The Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise on Surface Hub 2 configuration enables customers to break the monotony of sitting at one’s desk all day and allows them to stand, move around and meet with remote participants more naturally and invitingly” said Yoav Barzilay, Senior Program Manager, Surface Engineering.

Microsoft released a chart showing the what get and what you loose by making the switch to full Windows 10

Remind me again.. Surface Hub is…?

The Surface Hub 2S is Microsoft’s giant collaboration display which comes with a huge massive 4K multitouch 50” screen, muti touch pen, ink and finger and is optimised for meetings in Teams, even supporting the new companion mode within Microsoft Teams.

You can read my previous blog here.

The ability to now use regular Windows 10 on it was a big ask and should be quite an experience. (I’ll let you know when I’m back in the office!)

The Surface Hub 2S costs from around £8.5k but has add on accessories such as Steel Case Roam Stand and a dedicated 2-3hr battery pack allowing it to be used wire free. Great for phsycial breakout rooms and of course education classrooms and training rooms.

How do I install Windows 10?

Microsoft have kindly published detailed instructions on how to install Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise on it on this page.

What’s new in Teams for August 2020? – Spotlight, Call Merge, and more

Teams Aug 2020 Update logo

Microsoft has posted its August monthly wrap-up to look back at all the new features and capabilities added (or announced) in Microsoft Teams as part of the August 2020 update.  One thing to note (as my commenters often point out) is that, as with all these updates, as that Microsoft announce, the rolling out of these features and due to the gradual rollout, not all customers will get these at the same time!

Meetings and Calling Enhancements

With Teams Calling and Meetings being a constant area of innovation, demand (COVID and post COVID) and of course immense competition from the likes of Zoom in the meetings space, it won’t surprise you to hear there are tons of new improvements coming.  All these features have been designed of course to enhance the user experience in Microsoft Teams and include: –

  • The addition of Spotlight mode,
  • Enhancements to Meeting Recordings
  • New Call Merge option
  • Chat and Presence enhancements
  • Updated transcribe service (Speaker Attribution)
  • Teams Education Specific Enhancements

Spotlight mode

Said to be going live in the next couple of months (Sept to October), and not to be confused with the “Pin participant” feature, spotlight mode will provide presenters and meeting organisers the ability to lock an individual video feed for all attendees to see during a Teams meeting. This will mean presenters will be able to put someone in the spotlight by heading to the meeting video grid or directly from the Participants panel.

Teams Spotlight video window

Meeting Recording Improvements

Until now, Teams records meetings in Stream which is fine so long as Stream is available within the customers geographic region.  Until such time that Stream is available in all Office 365 Teams regions, a new admin setting is rolling out to let users to store meeting recordings in the Office 365 data centre closest to their region. In addition,

In addition, Microsoft have announced that Microsoft Teams is now fully supported with their “optimised experience” with VMWare Horizon 8, in additional to Citrix and of course, Windows Virtual Desktop, helping meet the increasing demand for collaboration tools to support remote workers and work across Virtual Desktop environments.

Enhancements to Teams Voice (Calling)

Microsoft announced new features for calling in Teams including a new call merge option for both Teams VOIP and PSTN calls which lets users merge several separate calls into a bigger group call.

Another new feature announced was new devices designed that will further enhance the collaboration and meeting experience. The list announced by Microsoft includes a new Windows collaboration displays from Avocor as well as various new Microsoft Teams Rooms setups powered by Yealink, Logitech, and HP.

Merge Calls in Teams

Chat and Presence Enhancements

After two years, Microsoft have finally “fixed” presence, although they announced this as a new feature since the tech behind it was rebuilt based on the updated and new communications APIs. 

Called “real-time presence”, this means that Teams will be able to provide a much more reliable and faster status updates.

Microsoft also announced that they are bringing enhanced Visio integration into Microsoft Teams to make it easier to access, managed and edit Visio files directly through a dedicated Visio tabs within a channel or chat.

Speaker Live Translation with Speaker Attribution

Microsoft is bringing a new Live Transcription with speaker attribution capabilities to Microsoft Teams which rolling out this month (September 2020)

The new Live Transcription feature will give users a new way to follow and review meeting conversations. Once rolled out, users will see two options in the meeting control bar – Recording and Transcription.

Transcripts will be viewed in real-time using the desktop client, or at the end of the meeting on the web application and will be attributed, in line with the speaker rather than the current simple subtitle / closed caption view today.

Teams Education – Enhancements

Teams in Education is different from Teams Commercial as has many discrete and dedicated features that empowers education establishments to use Team to deliver whole class teaching whether it’s for Academy, Adult Ed, Primary, Secondary, or Further/High Education.

There are new Education Insights that have been rolled out in public preview which allows “administrators to monitor digital engagement through system-level engagement monitoring reports which has been designed to provide enhanced visibility into educator best practices in remote instruction” – according to Microsoft. 

Microsoft Teams Edu Insights

Thirsty for more detail?

For the full details, refer to the wider Microsoft Blog here: 

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/what-s-new-in-microsoft-teams-august-2020/ba-p/1619717

 

 

 

“Application Guard” for Office Desktop Apps enters public preview

Image of Office Application Splash Screen

Microsoft has released a new security feature for Microsoft 365 into Public Preview. This new feature, known as “application guard“, has been designed to help prevent risky, malicious, or untrusted files from accessing your trusted resources.

This feature is turned off by default, and it’s currently only available to organisations that have Microsoft 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 Security licenses.

When enabled however, files from the internet and other potentially unsafe (not yet scanned or trusted) locations can contain viruses, worms, or other kinds of malware that can attempt to infect or harm users’ devices and data, in the case of malware, spread to other areas.

With the new Application Guard feature enabled, Office apps will open files from potentially unsafe locations in Application Guard, which is a secure container (in memory) that is isolated and shielded from other applications, device hardware, processes, and system memory through hardware-based virtualisation.

When enabled, users will see a change to the standard Office splash screen on the first launch of an untrusted office document that indicates that Application Guard for Office has been enabled, and that the file is being opened in a secure environment. In addition, the application will also display a visual indicator, such as a callout in the ribbon and the taskbar icon, to inform the user that the Application Guard is running.

Screenshot showing Office Application GuardImage of Office Application Splash Screen

What is nice about this new feature is that unlick the previous “protected mode” which limited editing functions for example and prevented some aspects of the document or excel macros from running, with Application Guard, users do NOT get a compromised experience, meaning they can securely read, edit, print, and save those files without having to re-open files outside the “safe” container.

As I said at the start, this feature is off by default and needs to be enabled by IT admin using a group policy or a CSP entry in your MDM . Details on how to enable Application Guard are provided by Microsoft here

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/security/office-365-security/install-app-guard?view=o365-worldwide

 

 

Review: Lenovo ThinkSmart View for Microsoft Teams

Now, I don’t need to tell you just how fast #MicrosoftTeams is being adopted across organisations globally, but one thing we are seeing is the shire explosion of new form factor devices by leading (and new) manufacturers into the Teams Collaboration space. Some of these new devices fits into the new category of Microsoft Teams Displays.

Microsoft Teams Displays – are a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices featuring an ambient touchscreen, and a hands-free / touch-free experience “powered by Cortana” (though this is currently only available in the US only at this point). 

One of these vendors is Lenovo, who are no means a “new kid on the block” when it comes to end user devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktops, but they are kind of new in the Teams Collaboration Device Space. Interestingly, Lenovo are now also supplying the “PC” component of, not only their new Teams Rooms Systems, but also that of Poly!

Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View

The all new ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for conducting Microsoft Teams audio and video calls which can be managed by their ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.

Image of Lenovo ThinkSmart View

Designed and certified exclusively for Microsoft Teams, Lenovo calls this a “…collaborative smart device that works from an individual’s workspace…”  – it’s a collaboration device really designed for execs or those with a pop-up home office who want to be “free from their laptop or tablet” but still need a video rich and audio rich endpoint. 

Lenovo are attempting to “reimagine the personal workspace” with Microsoft Teams displays by integrating the Teams collaboration and communication experience into the home and workplace with high fidelity audio and video.

So, what can you use it for?

Meetings – and it’s really good at them too!

Most of what the device can do is set out by, and limited by what Microsoft allows the device to do since the collaboration device is powered by the Microsoft Teams Android client that runs on the device. 

Today (August 2020) the following features are supported:

  • Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
  • Live Captions / Subtitles
  • Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
  • Common Area Phone features
  • Hot Desking Support 

Coming “soon” – September 2020 

  • Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
  • Raise hand support
  • Support for navigating and interacting with Chat and Teams
  • Access and Share recent Files
  • Better Together for Calling & Meeting
  • Leaving a note in meeting

What’s in the box?

This is really simple.  The ThinkSmart View device and a plug.

What’s the Price?

The retail for these is £281 plus VAT – so I definitely put them into the affordable gadget category for most managers/exec that work at home or need a dedicated Teams Video endpoint in their office.

Lenovo are also offering a 45 day try-or-buy on this so speak to your partner about this if you are interested.

What’s the Spec?

As I said – think of this as a giant Teams Phone. Its runs the same native Teams Mobile app but is perfect as a Teams On-the-go collaboration device – as long as you have a power-plug to power it up as it doesn’t have a built in battery. With this device you get:

  • 5MP wide angle (720p) with a physical camera shutter to cover it for privacy.
  • Built in microphone with mute switch to temporarily cut the audio.
  • 1.75″ 10W full-range speaker
  • Bluetooth® 4.2 (LE) – pairing allows use with a headset and support auto device lock.
  • 8″ HD (1200 x 800) IPS touchscreen with auto rotate for landscape / portrait mode

Lenovo ThinkSmart View in portrait mode

Usage

The ThinkSmart View is an interesting form factor device from Lenovo. It’s not immediately clear as to its best use case, however…. 

This could fill the need for a dedicated video collab device that a user can walk up to and start using on the desk on in a breakout area / small meeting room and it does support the “hot desk mode” – the lack of a handset makes it a bit in practical for a common area but you can pair it with a headset (again – great to dedicated use, no so much for common area use).

I think for anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!

My opinion – ideally suited for the millennial executive / manager desk as a communication endpoint for Teams that can break you away from your PC/Laptop/Tablet or device.

Competition

This a new(ish) form factor, though not entirely unique to Lenovo. The other Teams Collaboration device manufacturer in this space today is Yealink. I’ve not yet had the pleasure of testing one of these so I can’t do a review or comparison of yet

Summary

As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent and at <£300 it’s a great device to buy a few of and see how users get on with them.

This is really nice and very simple to use device – it does Teams meetings as Microsoft intended – click join and enjoy!! The ThinkSmart View is excellent quality, looks great on the desk and works really well – what’s not to love for under £300 and if you need convincing (or need to convince others), there’s the try or buy offer too remember!

Click here to visit the Lenovo Website

Will I keep it/Buy it?

I’m not sure yet – but probably!!!!

I’m going to put it through its paces for a week or so as I’m only a day in so far and I really hope the new software updates make thier way to my loan device before the end of my two-week trial!

Surface Duo (aka Surface Phone) launched

Late last night (UK time), Microsoft officially “launched” the next milestone in their Surface Journey with a new form-factor device under the prestigious brand of “Surface”. 

What is Surface Duo?

Surface Duo brings mobile productivity to a new level – powered by a new mobile form-factor, two screens and powered by a customised Android OS and Microsoft 365 apps and services.
Image of Surface DuoSomeone holding a Surface Duo
Surface Duo (images courtesy of Microsoft)

Surface Duo promises to deliver the easiest and most natural way to multitask on the go, bringing together the power of Microsoft 365 apps, services and experiences with the full ecosystem of Android mobile apps all of which can be fully managed, configured and protected with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Defender ATP.

Of course, this is a Surface – not just a device running Android OS! One of the incredible capabilities of this new Surface is its ability to natively connecting to a full Windows 10 experience in the cloud with Windows Virtual Desktop, making Surface Duo perfectly aligned to its vision and enablement of the modern workplace – for execs, for first line workers or as the perfect companion device to everything else!

Running Windows Virtual Desktop on Surface let’s not only allow you to run Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) on a Surface Duo but it will fully support the native device experience and Windows 10 – supporting touch, pen, ink, and biometric authentication in across both the physical device and virtual environments seamlessly. 

When is it Available?

Surface Duo will begin shipping on September 10, 2020 and according to Microsoft, “represents the next wave of mobile productivity, inspiring people to rethink what is possible with the device in their pocket“. 

What’s the Spec?

Surface Duo will represent the thinnest foldable mobile device on the market with an 8.1″ PixelSense Fusion display connected by a revolutionary 360-degree hinge, allowing the user to view and interact with each 5.6″ display individually or together, across a variety of modes with native support already available across a wide range of Microsoft, and other applications including OneNote, Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

While the full specs haven’t been released, the core specs that have been shared are quite impressive and include:

  • Less than 5mm thick (so very thin) and only 9.6mm when folded/closed
  • Two 5.6″ high-res (1,800 x 1,350) Gorilla Glass covered 5.6” AMOLED displays that fold out into an impressive 8.1”, 401 dpi screen
  • Unique 360-degree hinge design 
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SOC
  • Single USB-C 
  • Wi-Fi and 4G (yes, no 5G on initial launch)
  • 11MP Camera (but don’t let the low res get you down as this is Surface so will be a high-quality sensor with excellent low light (F-Stop) support – though I haven’t seen the actual spec on this as yet!

Someone holding a Surface Duo in folded configuration

The specs aren’t really the focus – its more about what and how the device helps embrace modern working. Microsoft’s Surface (and now Windows) lead, Panos Panay, and team, don’t really focus on speeds and feeds as the target market for this isn’t the consumer, it’s their loyal Surface and Microsoft 365 customers. 

Enterprise Security from Chip to Cloud

There has been a huge focus, on Security (as you’d expect from Microsoft) and Surface Duo has protection built in at every layer with deeply integrated hardware, firmware, and software to keep your devices, identities, and data secure.

Microsoft have taken their custom engineered Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), used across the Surface range and embedded this into Duo too, which enables full control over firmware components. Microsoft have released a detailed document on exactly how they will do this here:

How much does it cost and when can I get it!

Surface Duo pricing starts at $1,399 (US) – no UK pricing yet and not “currently” available for pre-order but expect this to change very soon!

What do you think?

I’ll certainly be getting one as soon as they are available and will provide a full hand-on review once I have my hands on one!

Keen on your initial thoughts on this.