New Surface devices are coming next month….

Microsoft has confirm what many were expecting. They are holding a Surface event next month (October 12th).

Being held and streamed online also, the event, which is officially dubbed “Microsoft Fall 2022 Event,” is being hosted the day before its global Ignite Event. October also marks the 10 year anniversary of Surface! Wow.

What to expect

As is usual this time of year, the rumour mill and noise around the event is on fire.

It is “expected” that Microsoft will be annoucing the Surface Pro 9 which will have the option of Arm or Intel processors, update to Surface Laptop and a new (but different) Surface Studio.

Stay tuned.

There is also rumour of new Surface accessories coming too, and knowing Microsoft there will also be a couple of suprises..

To find out first hand what is new and what to get excited about, you can register and watch live by registering here.

Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro and Basic

TL;DR

Microsoft has just launched Microsoft Teams Pro which is, in their words, “designed to provide an integrated experience and bridge the gap between physical and digital workspaces“. In short, the Teams Room Pro license combines the previous Microsoft Teams Standard and Microsoft Teams Rooms Premium licenses. There is also a new free license, Teams Room Basic – which provides limited Teams Room functionality.

As of Sept 1st, 2022, organisations can no longer purchase new Teams Room Standard or Teams Room Premium licenses – they need to buy Pro or use the “free” basic license.


Teams Room Pro vs Basic – What is the difference?

Teams Room Basic

Teams Room Basic license is really designed for small businesses (there’s a limit of twenty-five meeting rooms) and is £0 / FREE. It supports single screen and provides foundational Teams meeting experiences like scheduling and joining meetings as well as wireless content sharing but lacks many of the things that were included in Teams Room Standard. Teams Rooms Basic is included with the purchase of any certified Teams Rooms device at no additional cost, purchased on or after September 1, 2022. Customers can apply up to 25 Basic licenses to their tenant.

For small customers or those that just need basic book and join meetings, this provides a potential cost saving of ~£180 a year per room.

Teams Room Pro

For most organisations (and any that have over twenty-five rooms), Teams Pro is what organisations will want and need. With Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro, users will get to access all the existing Teams Rooms features they have been used to with Teams Room Standard, but they also get new innovations, and the Teams Rooms Managed Service platform. This costs $40 per room per month – about £30 and organisations can use this license (or purchase) with their Teams Room partner to provide a comprehensive Managed Meeting Room experience with the additional value-added service being provided by expert Teams Rooms Partners which includes Cisilion and several others.

Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro provides all the enhanced in-room meeting experiences such as intelligent audio and video, content capture, front row and large galleries, and multi-screen support as well as support for Teams Phone. The Teams Rooms Pro licenses also provides advanced management features like remote device management, auto-updates and patching, conditional access policies, and detailed device analytics, problem diagnosis and vendor hardware updates which is not included on Teams Room Basic. Teams Room Pro also allows IT to connect the Teams Room environment into their IT Service Management (ITSM) platforms like Service Now and Science Logic for example.

Microsoft would like to point customers to their partner pages for any organisation who is seeking additional help managing and supporting their meeting rooms, via partners like Cisilion who have strong technical expertise and deep customer success focus.

License and Feature Comparisons

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Max no. Licenses25Unlimited
CostFree$40 (~£30)
Microsoft Teams Licence✔️✔️
Audio Conferencing ✔️✔️
Whiteboard✔️✔️
Teams Phone✔️
Microsoft Intune✔️
Azure AD Premium P1✔️
AvailabilityWorldwideWorldwide
ProcurementWeb Direct or NCE via PartnerWeb Direct, NCE (via Partner), EA, EAS, CSP,

Feature Comparison – Meeting Join

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Join meetings with 1-touch, proximity, meeting ID✔️✔️
Start ad-hoc meetings from Teams Room✔️✔️
Direct Guest Join (Zoom & Webex)✔️✔️
Room check-in via Teams Panel✔️
Join meetings across Teams Cloud✔️

Feature Comparison – Engagement and Collaboration

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Share and view all Teams content types✔️✔️
Front Row✔️
Together Mode✔️
Large Gallery Support (up to 50 videos)✔️
Split Gallery (Dual Screen)✔️

Feature Comparison – Calling

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Make and receive peer to peer and group calls✔️✔️
Microsoft 365 Phone System (PSTN Calling)✔️

Feature Comparison – Intelligent audio and video

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Support for intelligent speakers with live
transcription and speaker identification
✔️
Multi-Camera Support✔️
Panoramic Room View✔️
AI noise suppression ✔️
People counting / occupancy✔️

Feature Comparison – Device Management

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Teams Admin Centre enrollment & inventory✔️✔️
Automatic software updates✔️✔️
Detailed system and configuration info✔️
Peripheral health management✔️
Remote configuration✔️
Device history and activity✔️
ITSM integration✔️
Custom health alerts✔️
Device and usage analytics✔️

Feature Comparison – Security & Compliance

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Secure Operating System✔️✔️
System Level Security✔️✔️
Azure AD conditional access policies✔️

I’ve already got licenses – what does this mean to me?

For most organisations, they will need to make the shift to Teams Room Pro at the end of their license term or reduce the license to Teams Room Basic if they feel they do not need any of the advanced features.

For customers who don’t have an enterprise agreement (usually a 3-year term), and that buy Web Direct (on a credit card) or via a CSP partner, you will no longer be able to buy new Microsoft Teams Rooms Standard or Premium licences; for all new rooms, you will have to use either Teams Room Basic or Pro licences. Once your existing licence term expires for your existing licences, you must make the shift to Teams Pro (or down grade to basic).

Whilst the cost increase will frustrate many users that buy Teams Room Standard today, the price for Teams Room Pro is still very much in line with how much, and the way in which the other providers like Zoom and Cisco also charge for their Room licenses. Microsoft have added a plethora of new features to Teams and Teams Room over the past few years and these price increases are there to support these and future enhancements.

Mix and match – it is also possible, if you wany/need to mix Pro and Basic licenses but bear in mind that the functionality will be different for the different rooms which users will find confusing especially if they use any of the advanced meeting features listed above. might be confusing. More importantly, the management and admin experience will also be different for the Rooms. Remember this is a tenant level limit of 25 Basic Rooms/devices.

Microsoft Documentation

Pricing Information: Microsoft Teams Room Basic and Pro

Support from Partners: Microsoft would like to point customers to their partner pages for any organisation who is seeking additional help managing and supporting their meeting rooms, via partners like Cisilion who have strong technical expertise and deep customer success focus.

Windows 11 22H2 Update is here. What’s new and changed.

Windows 11 version 22H2 is the next major update coming to Windows 11 was released yesterday (20th Sept 2022).

Can you believe that Windows 11 has been with us for almost a year? Since then, Microsoft has been continually working with Windows Insiders to add more polish and refinement that is now making their way into this latest update, as well as continuous enhancements and improvements based on feedback and media.

The initial release last year, was the major new release of Windows which built on the success of Windows 10, but with a major new Start menu, modern UI, enhancements to security, a brand-new, modern sounds and animations, and a bunch of new features all centred around enhancing the hybrid work and play experience.

As a Windows Insider, I’ve been using and testing the Windows 11 22H2 update for some time, and this blog aims to summarise the key changes and experience from my point of view.

TL;DR

There’s lots of polish, improvements and changes coming in this update, the key ones worthy of mention are listed below and discussed in more detail within this blog… Enjoy!

  • Start menu now has App Folders
  • Taskbar finally support Drag and Drop
  • Focus Assist integrates to Notification Center
  • Snap Assist gets snappier and smarter.
  • File Explorer gets Tabs
  • OneDrive gets more integrated with the OS
  • Touch enhancements and new gestures
  • New Task Manager app
  • New Video Editing / Authoring App
  • Enhanced Accessibility Features
  • Numerous UI improvements

Version 22H2 will be offered as a free update for all Windows 11 users and is part of the life cycle updates that we are used to with Windows.

Note: Windows 10 (which is supported and serviced until 2025), will also soon be getting its 22H2 update.

Start Menu Updates

With the first version of Windows 11, Microsoft introduced an innovative new design for the Start menu that had been rebuilt from the ground up with simplicity in mind. This was led with some criticism but has been generally well received and is a nice modern touch on what was an aging look and feel.

The biggest news with this update is that users can now create app folders. Creating app folders is simply and intuitive. By simply dragging one app icon over the other, then letting go, Windows will create the app folder, which can then be named re organised and moved around move the folder around in the pinned area of the Start menu. This helps a lot with making the Start menu feel less cluttered and is similar to what we are used too on android and iOS.

Taskbar and Action Centre

Unfortunately, no…. You still cannot move the taskbar from the bottom of the screen to the sides or the top. There has been lots of feedback around this as it’s been possible to move it in all previous versions of Windows. It looks like it’s staying at the bottom (at least for now). Remember you can move the alignment of the start button to the left though!

The biggest criticism filed in feedback hub around Windows11 has been about the Taskbar and the inability to be able to drag and drop files between apps using the Taskbar. This has been resolved and is back in Windows 11 22H2 which makes multitasking with the Taskbar far easier and restores functionality that was previously part of the Taskbar in previous versions of Windows…. Shame it’s taken a year to put it back!

The Action Center has also received a bunch of updates too, including the “focus assist” button, which has moved from Quick Settings into the Notification panel where it makes more sense. As part of the move, it’s also been renamed to “do not disturb.” which also makes more sense. Microsoft has also added a new “focus” timer under the calendar flyout.

The focus timer is now also paired with the Windows 11 Clock app, which can also synchronise with your Microsoft To-Do lists and to Spotify. In this latest update users can now start a do not disturb session (with music) straight from the notification center, whereas previously this had to be launched from the Clock app.

Finally, the Bluetooth action in the Quick Settings panel has been updated with the ability to view and manage Bluetooth devices without having to launch the Settings app first. This brings it in line with other Quick Setting actions like the Wi-Fi and accessibility toggles.

Snap Assist Updates

One the best new features that hit Windows 11 was Snap Assist, which provides a simple and intuitive way of aligning Windows across your display(s).

This update brings and additional way of initiating snap assist. With this update, and in addition to the drop-down snapping menu that appears when you hover a window at the top of the screen, and the ability to drag app windows to the far left or right of your screen, the 22H2 update adds a new “snap bar” menu that drops down from the top middle of your display when you grab an app window to move it.

Snap Assist in Windows 11


The snap bar “peeks” out at the top of your screen when you begin to move an app window (rather than having to take it all the way to the top) and allows you to drag your app window into any of the snapping layouts available.

As before, the number of snap grid options is based on the size and resolution of your display.

File Explorer

File Explorer has received a fair amount of attention in this 22H2 update.

First up, Tabs…. Yes, Microsoft is adding tabs to the File Explorer app, something that have been requested in feedback hub for ages. Just like a Web Browser, you can now open new tabs and switch between them directly from File Explorer without having to open multiple windows.

File Explorer – with Tabs in Windows 11 22H2

Next, there is a new “Home” page that is now shown by default when you open the File Explorer. The layout is still familiar but has some subtle differences such as a new “favourites” and “recent” area that appears below your quick-access folders.

The Home page give you the ability to pin files to the favorites area, which will keep them front and center for ease of access. Additionally, the recents area works similarly to the recommended feed in the Start menu and shows. A history of the most recent opened files. This can be turned off if you don’t want to use it.

Microsoft has also moved personal folders out from the “This PC” section – this now only shows storage and network drives. This means if you want to access your user folders, you need to go to the Home page or the sidebar. Whilst this was tested with Windows Insiders, I suspect some users will find this an odd change, but I guess it does make sense.

The sidebar interface in File Explorer has also been updated slightly. Microsoft have repositioned the Home page and OneDrive folders at the top of the side bar, followed by pinned and most used folders, “This PC” and “Network drives” are at the bottom of the side bar.

OneDrive has become even more integrated into File Explorer with 22H2. It is now possible to set your OneDrive directory as the default home page for File Explorer. This is useful as more people are using OneDrive over personal local storage. File Explorer also now includes a new sync activity indicator in the top right which shows available cloud storage as well as what files are syncing or have recently been synced.

Finally, there is an updated “open with” dialog design too which is more in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design. It works in the same way as the old one, just like looks like it was built for Windows 11.

Touch Enhancements

The Touch Experience has also been improved for users with touch-first devices like Surface Pro. Windows 11 removed the dedicated “tablet mode” interface that touch users were used to on Windows 10 last year and replaced it with enhancements to the desktop interface to make it easier to use with touch. With the 22H2 updat3, there are new gestures that enable access to common system areas such as the Start menu and Control Center with the swipe of a finger as well as new gestures for things like switching, closing, and snapping apps.

  • Start menu: Swipe up from the bottom middle of the screen.
  • All Apps: Swipe right in the Start menu.
  • Control Centre: Swipe up from the bottom right of the screen.
  • Switch between open apps: Three finger swipe left or right in the middle of the screen.
  • Task View: Three finger swipe up in the middle of the screen.
  • Minimise all apps: Three finger swipe down in the middle of the screen

New Native Apps

A number of the stock apps have also been updated and a major new one added.

Task Manager has been updated for the first time since Windows 8 and brings with it a brand-new design that brings it in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design language.

New Task Manager in Windows 11 22H2

The updated Task Manager introduces a new sidebar along the left which is home to all the different tabs that Task Manager has always featured. From here you can access system processes, performance, app history, start-up apps, users, details, and services tabs right from the hamburger menu.

Common actions such as “end task” and “run new task” have been moved to the top right corner, just below the window controls and Microsoft has also updates the graphs in the performance tab match your system accent colour.

Microsoft has also added two brand new apps with the also the 22H2 update.

Clipchamp is a new video editing tool that Microsoft acquired last year that is now a Stock Windows 11 app. The app is good IMO and provides good video editing tools. It is simple and intuitive to use to create videos, tutorials etc., for corporate, home, or social media. There’s is a paid tier and free tier, with the paid option offering many more stock video, music and animated effects as well as free cloud storage.

Clipchamp App in Windows 11 22H2

Secondly, the Family Safety (also available on iOS and Android) is now available as an app on Windows 11. This is a web app, which simply points to the online Microsoft Family Safety services where you can add family members, track their location, approve purchase requests, share Office subscriptions, and monitor usage and activity across all apps and services including Xbox games.

Enhanced Accessibility Features

Microsoft is now stranger to accessibility features across their products and services.

22H2 update brings live captions, which can be enabled on any content. The live captions work across all Windows and with any app and even works without an Internet connection.

Microsoft has added a new voice access feature that enables full control your Windows PC using just your voice and is powerful, simple to use and accurate (in my testing anyway).

When voice access is enabled, a narration bar appears along the top of the screen, which then let’s you use your voice to navigate all of Windows. Key commands such as “open Start” or “scroll Edge”, “Open Word”. You can also use your voice to move the cursor to specific points on the screen, type sentences into text boxes and much more.

Summary

In all a solid bunch of updates to mark the One Year Anniversary of Windows 11. For me there is still (as there was in Windows 10) many UI inconsistencies to work on, but Microsoft are getting there and the enhancements to Start Menu and Taskbar are very much welcomed.

If you have feedback on anything in Windows 11, then I encourage you to file your feedback in the Feedback Hub. The engineers and programme managers take the feedback seriously and it is reviewed and listened to. You can get to Feedback Hub, from Windows 11 by pressing 🪟and F.


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Microsoft launches Adoption Score to help businesses get the best from their Microsoft 365 investment.

Microsoft has released another analytics dashboard for the Microsoft 365 admin centre called Adoption Score. This latest AI driven insights dashboard is designed to assist IT and Customer Success Teams to ensure their employees are making the most from the core productivity and collaboration tools across Microsoft 365. Adoption Score replaces the  Productivity Score dashboard whilst adding a bunch of new features and controls that are designed to help enhance effectiveness and efficiency.

The anonymised metrics in Adoption Score help IT admins understand and optimize Microsoft 365 usage patterns in support of their digital transformation journey. The new name reflects the new product truth and provides clearer differentiation from other solutions that offer insights for business leaders and managers.

Microsoft.

Microsoft also indicated that they plan to add more functionality over time with the long term of aim of helping  IT (and / or their support partners or MSPs) ensure they are making the most out of their Microsoft 365 investment. Also included are lots of privacy controls to ensure organisations can adhere to their user-level privacy commitments which helps ensure it isn’t used as a spying or workplace surveillance tool.

Adoption Score shows how Microsoft 365 software gets used in an organisations and then offers “recommended actions” for more efficient use of those products. It also has a scoring service across eight categories that can be compared with similar sized organisations.

Microsoft 365 Adoption Score

Data is obtained and anonamises using Microsoft 365 application use data from activity across “Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Yammer and Skype.

Privacy

Microsoft claims that Adoption Score only shows “anonymised metrics.” The announcement stated that “Adoption Score is backed by Microsoft’s continued commitment to user-level privacy — meaning no one in a customer’s organisation can use Adoption Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365”, meaning you can’t identity individuals in the reports.

New Features

One of the new features is called “Time Trends” which will also soon be part of the Adoption Score Tool, which will help organisations better  understand historical data insights across the business and departments. This new “Time Trends will be added to each people experience category across Content Collaboration, Meetings, Teamwork, Mobility and Communication. Data will now be analysed from up to 180 days of historic data (but can be customised).

The tools will enable IT to better understand how a particular behaviour or insight, such as the response rate for new email responses, @mentions and Comms via Teams for example has evolved over the last 30, 90 or 180 days which enables IT or success mangers to understand the meaning behind the tends, helping them see whether they are close to achieving set goals for the adoption of modern comms tools (over just reply to all type email chains).

Availability

The Adoption Score tool is available now (rolling out) to all commercial Microsoft 365 subscriptions and can be accessed by Global admins (and then delayed as needed). On initial access, IT are required to approve both Adoption Score analytics and the people experiences category in order to access the Time trend data.

Viva Engage aims to improve company culture and human connector at work.

During Inspire 2022, Microsoft announced that they were intending to expand Microsoft Viva with a new Engage module. As of now, Viva Engage is generally available and rolling out.

What is Microsoft Viva

Viva Engage is the latest component of Microsoft’s Employee Experience platform, Viva. Viva brings together communications, knowledge, learning, sales, company goals, resources, and insights in the flow of work to foster a culture that empowers employees and teams to be their best from anywhere. It consists of Viva Insights, Viva Learning, Viva Topics, Viva Goals and now Viva Engage.

What is Viva Engage?

In short, Viva Engage is an Enterprise Social experience that allows employees to interact,  share news, ideas and stories as well as to develop relationships, establish internal connections, and at the same time provide an opportunity for people to learn from each other all from within Microsoft Teams,  helping to foster a better company culture

The purpose of Viva Engage is to “Connect everyone at your organisation through employee communities and conversations using Viva Engage, a Microsoft Teams app powered by Yammer“.

Viva Engage from Microsoft

Microsoft Viva Engage is not entirely new, but the name is! It is an modern version of the Yammer Communities app that’s been around for sometime.  It builds upon the social and communication capabilities of Yammer and Microsoft 365 apps and services, Viva Engage also beings new features and capabilities designed to make the experience more seamless than before. 

Viva Engage has a personalised Home page feature the brings users into a social landing page, where they can see news and posts from their connections. Like Facebook and Linked In for example, the feed learns and shows content that is most relevant based on machine learning and personal preferences.

Also within Viva Engage is a Communities Hub along with a list of recommended communities (if you are sed to using Yammer this will be familiar).

Viva Engage Stories

So what’s the connection between Viva Engage and Yammer?

Viva Engage is a new app, integrated in Teams, that surfaces existing and new employee experiences powered by Yammer services. Viva Engage delivers high-value employee experiences including community building, leadership engagement, knowledge sharing, and self-expression. The Viva Engage app integrates these experiences into Teams, and introduces new features including storyline and stories.

This means that for organisations that use Yammer today, these new Viva Engage features will also appear in Yammer web, desktop and mobile apps. So whether a user visits to Yammer.com, uses one of the popular Yammer mobile apps for iOS or Android, or experiences the Viva Engage app in Teams, they will see the same content and generally access effectively the same feature set.

New features coming too.

New to Viva Engage (and coming in the next few weeks) is the Storyline and Stories features, which have been built to enhance engagement among employees. With this, employees will be able to share their thoughts widely with colleagues through conversations and videos, similar to the experience in Instagram Stories.

The dedicated Storylines tab will get populated with content from colleagues but also features popular and trending posts from across the network. Employees can also use the ‘follow’ feature to follow other employees making simple to get updates and news from persons of interest.

Licensing and Costs

The new Viva Engage app, storyline and stories, are available to any organisation/user with a Yammer license, which is on by default for all Microsoft 365 commercial customers.

Conclusion

Viva Engage is not a new application, it is instead a partial re-brand of Yammer for Microsoft Teams with new modern features and deeper integration across Microsoft 365 apps and services.

Since Teams apps are the universal apps for the Microsoft 365 ecosystem Viva Engage will also replace the Yammer Communities app that is available for Outlook and Teams making Yammer more available from a variety of locations inside Microsoft 365.


To find out more about Viva Engage follow the link to Microsoft’s dedicated page.

Surface Headphones 2+ now Teams Certified without a dongle!

For users / owners of Surface Headphones 2+ (for Business), Microsoft are rolling out a new firmware update which enables the devices to be Microsoft Teams® certified using native Bluetooth® without a dongle.

Image (c) Microsoft

This means users of Surface Headphones 2+ will be able to depend on reliable connections during calls and interact with intuitive touch control with the convenience of not having to worry about the dongle – something which will improve productivity and ease of use for employees that (like me) often navigate different workspaces and devices for hybrid work and everyday life.

This is made possible by Microsoft leveraging the improvement in Bluetooth connectivity directly via the Surface companion app for Windows and Mac desktop clients.

Specific other vendor devices will, in the future, also get firmware updates to support native Bluetooth stack certification support.

Surface Headphones

For more information about Surface Headphones, you can check out the Microsoft product pages here.

What is Microsoft Digital Contact Centre Platform all about?

Microsoft and Nuance Contact Centre

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the digital contact center has grown more vital for organisations to managing the increasing expectations of customer experience and excellence. Microsoft have had many of the core building blocks of a contact center platform for while with products like Dynamics 365 Customer Service, which was very focused on the support agent and customer experience … but it didn’t provide the actual engagement channels – which required third party services.

Despite the increasing importance of contact centers however, Microsoft had truly developed or built their own “true contact center” capability despite their prime competition in the UC&C space (namely Zoom and Cisco) have had Contact Centre in their UC&C portfolio.

Until now that is…

At Microsoft Inspire (Microsoft’s annual global partner conference), Microsoft unveiled their new Digital Contact Centre Platform which combines Dynamics 365, Nuance, Teams, Power Platform, and Azure to form a new modern contact centre solution that aims to engage customers through a blend of voice, video, and other digital engagement channels and plays to their strength and breadth of their “platform strategy approach”.

“In today’s digital world, brand reputation is synonymous with customer experience, including the quality of customer care. Consumers expect effortless, consistent, and secure experiences across any point of contact they choose—in fact, their brand perception and customer loyalty depend on it. With the stakes this high, companies need a comprehensive yet flexible solution to modernise their customer care experience. We are thrilled to introduce the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform, an open, extensible, and collaborative contact centre solution designed to deliver seamless customer journeys.”

Charles Lamanna | CVP | Business Applications and Platform | Microsoft

Great….so what is it?

Despite Microsoft adding support for Teams voice channels into Dynamics 365 last year, it’s really their acquisition of AI-based communications giant Nuance in March which has allowed them to take the next step into developing their own fully fledged Digital Contact Centre solution not only adding the omni channel experience, but also providing support agents with everything from recommended responses to live sentiment analysis across all channels.

Microsoft describe their new Digital Contact Centre Platform, as an open, extensible, and collaborative contact centre solution designed to deliver seamless customer journeys. The platform brings together a comprehensive yet flexible solution for contact centres, delivering best-in-class AI that powers self-service experiences, live customer engagements, collaborative agent experiences, business process automation, advanced telephony, and fraud prevention capabilities.

Microsoft say that “the real USP in their offering is that by leveraging their core suites of platform, enables organisation to capture additional customer information that might otherwise fall through the cracks” | Pete Daderko | Director of Teams Product Marketing.

The viewpoint is that since Microsoft already over 250 million people using Teams as their primary work tool, then “It’s really only natural that organisations would want to take the productivity or collaboration platform that they’re already using and use it to better serve customers.

MSFT Digital Contact Centre is built on Teams, Dynamics, Power Platform and Nuance.

With the combination of Teams telecommunications infrastructure, Dynamics 365 customer agent experience and Nuance AI, Microsoft believes it is uniquely placed to be able to address the three main pillars of a contact center – Infrastructure, agent experience and true conversational, contextual based AI.

The Competition

This is an interesting one. Microsoft of course aren’t the only vendor to take this approach. After the failed FiveNine acquisition last year, Zoom later went on to Solvvy to bolster their own AI capabilities into their contact centre solution.

Still, Microsoft knows it won’t replace every customer’s contact center. Recognizing that very few customers will switch their entire tech stacks to Microsoft overnight, the company plans to play nice with others (for now).

Microsoft, despite the extent of their cloud platforms have always touting the open ecosystem approach to bolstering “gaps” or “specialist” areas in their portfolio – with contact centre being a big example. They have continually addressed the answer to the question of “when will Microsoft build its own native contact centre” around the extensive integrations with leading contact centre providers such as Genesys, Avaya, NICE inContact and others. As Microsoft move into the next stage of their own development, they say that “When we called it the digital contact center platform, we called it that very deliberately — the platform piece — because we think integrations and interoperability and being open is so key“.

“Nuance has a rich history and legacy of connecting to really any kind of CRM, or any contact center infrastructure or contact center as a service provider,” is a key part of that open platform strategy”

Charles Lamanna | CVP | Business Apps and Platform | Microsoft

Summary

This is a big investment space and with cloud penetration still generally low across the legacy contact center industry, which still relies on a single mode / voice, on-premises infrastructure and limited connectivity to CRM and other LOB apps, there’s tremendous opportunity for Microsoft and their partners to help its customers move from on-premises to the cloud. It will just have to beat out the likes of Zoom, Salesforce, and others with a longer history in the market.

What do you think – please leave your answers in the comments.

Should every organisation be considering Windows 365?

Windows 365 has just celebrated its first birthday – but what is it and why is Microsoft betting big on Windows 365 to help improve the employee experience, tighten security, and provide better agility for employees?

Businesses globally are once again being hit head on with challenges unrivalled in recent business history. Employee churn-rates are at record levels presenting unique business challenges, whilst the continuing shift in the workforce from centralised offices to home working has increased the number of “work locations” exponentially. Combined with the on-going global supply chain shortages, and logistical difficulties in procuring, preparing, and shipping new devices to employees makes onboarding new employees more challenging than ever. The continuing need to provide employees with a secure, professional, corporate desktop environment is pressuring IT to make decisions that can impact process, security, governance and above all employee satisfaction.

Microsoft are betting big with Windows 365, since it can help organisations significantly reduce the time it takes to provide new employees with access to their corporate desktop environment from days or weeks to minutes without compromising security. What’s more, unlike traditional on-premises Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments, Windows 365 (which is a new category of cloud computing, known as Cloud PC, simplifies the entire provisioning process and user experience.

In conjunction with the Enterprise Security Group, Microsoft recently carried out a TEI study which found that by leveraging Windows 365 Cloud PC, organisations can significantly lower the cost of providing access to an organisation’s end user computing environment whilst improving security and employee satisfaction. The ESG report also revealed that Windows 365 can provide a “typical organisation” with an overall annual benefit of up $7,271 per user for small businesses and up to $6,765 per user for companies with over 1,000 employees.

What is Windows 365?

In short, Windows 365 unlocks a new category of hybrid personal computing, called “Cloud PC” that delivers Windows from the cloud. It aims to provide a hybrid approach to providing client computing by utilising a cloud service that is not tied to any specific hardware.

Image (c) Microsoft

Windows 365 combines the power and security of Windows 10 or Windows 11 with the scalability and versatility of cloud to provide a personal, reliable, and familiar work/desktop environment on any supported physical device. If want to see it in action, you can head over to Microsoft’s YouTube video here.

Similar in concept, but different to VDI technology, Cloud PCs are one of the newest Microsoft cloud solutions to come to market. Cloud PCs are optimised for business and user agility, are highly secure, persistent to the user and are billed on a per-user, per-month model that simplifies the cost and infrastructure complexity of client computing environments and on-premises VDI solutions.

The report by ESG validated that Windows 365 provides capabilities that address nine of the ten business challenges identified by IT leaders.

Source: ESG Complete Survey Results, End-user Computing Trends, February 2022.

SIMPLE, COST EFFECTIVE, POWERFUL, SECURE – Windows 365 works by giving each user a dedicated Cloud PC (of a chosen specification) that runs their own individual Windows 10 or Windows 11 desktop environment while providing an extremely simple-to-manage ecosystem all managed via Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager toolset which is used to manage the rest of the physical desktop or laptop estate. For users, this means they can bring their existing device and instantly be presented with a familiar and powerful end-user computing experience either while they “wait” for their replacement or physical device or instead of waiting for IT to procure, provision, and image a new corporate device. In turn the ESG report finds that Cloud PC technology provides an effective solution for organisations of any size and sector, which are working to meet the complex needs of a hybrid or remote workforce.

Benefits of Windows 365 Cloud PC

Cost Predictability

The ESG report, concludes that Windows 365 delivers a combination of lowered costs, eliminated costs, and a predictable fixed cost model which can provides significant financial benefit in several areas.

  • Lower costs: Shifting to Windows 365 lowers and eliminates costs in several areas, including VDI licensing, server operating systems, remote desktop licensing, storage, management, power and cooling, license management, VDI management, procurement, and end-of-life costs.
  • Fixed-price model: Windows 365 Cloud PC pricing is based on a simple per-user, per-month model which that allows organisations to match computing and storage needs to individual user requirements. There is value in being able to project costs in business. Most VDI pricing models are based on consumption, which, while this may initially seem like an advantage, most organisation often find that their monthly charges extend far beyond projections when usage spikes unexpectedly.
  • Ability to cross-charge services: Organisations that charge internal or external business groups fees for licenses, hardware, or services will find that the Windows 365 predictable cost model makes it much easier to allocate specific costs in a granular and predictable way, especially when compared to the capital-intensive purchases needed to facilitate on-premises VDI or DaaS.

Business and User Agility

With employee churn-rates are at record levels, continuing delays in supply chains and with more employees, contractors and temporary staff being permanently remote, getting new employees up and running as quickly as possible is a big challenge. Windows 365 allows companies to provide highly secure Cloud PCs running Windows 11 on their device within minutes verses hours, days, or weeks.

  • Time to employee enablement: The time from when a new employee, temporary worker, or contractor is hired to when they are fully onboarded with their corporate device often takes time, leads to the employee getting a second-hand device, or means it delays their onboarding time. Leveraging Cloud PC technology can, however, means that organisations can now provide new starters with a new Windows desktop is under an hour, allowing them to security access their work environment from any supported device that the new worker wishes to use, even if it is only a temporary situation.
  • Enablement of temporary/seasonal workers – The cost in both money and time to empower short-term workers with a company work environment is often high, and either inhibits an organisation’s willingness to employ temporary works or worse, means they are forced to compromise on security due to the time to procure and provision a device. With Windows 365, temporary workers can quickly be provisioned so they have immediate access to the corporate environment while safe in the knowledge that all intellectual property stays secured within the corporate environment, and that the Cloud PC can be immediately removed at the end of the contract period.
  • Efficient IT Management – When compared to the effort required in procuring, preparing, and delivering laptops to users or even configuring and deploying virtual desktops with traditional VDI platforms, deployment of Cloud PC technology like Windows 365 can result in a 46% reduction in IT effort.
  • Ability to use any device – Windows 365 allows IT to provide workers with a highly secure, Windows 11 desktop on any supported device even though the host device may not be capable of natively running the OS. This is also great for “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) scenarios for employees who may just be starting or have shifted to working from home or short-term workers such as interns, contractors, and consultants.
  • Increased ability to react quicky to seasonal demand – The ability to get a secure, corporate desktop to users quickly is one of the barriers to rapid enablement. Windows 365 Cloud PCs empower businesses to immediately create and decommission desktops to react to opportunities that might be ignored in other DaaS or VDI environments.
  • Equality with the employees – The mindset of the workforce has changed from “May I have a job?” to an attitude of “What are you willing to do to keep me as an employee?”. Treating all employees as equals and providing them with a premium, professional-grade work environment is two of the key criteria for ensuring employee satisfaction. With Windows 365, employees can access a highly secure, personalized Windows 11 work experience through their Cloud PC, regardless of location or available device.
  • Merger and acquisition (M&A) scenarios – Mergers and acquisition events take months, even years, to align the separate work environments that result in an M&A to the same access and security postures. This limits potential cooperation between the entities and delays the full realization of value for the event. The ability to rapidly assimilate the new entities to the existing EUC solution accelerates the time to value and reduces the cost and risk of running parallel environments. The time to combine these two work environments into one can be significantly reduced by using Windows 365 Cloud PC.

Improved Security Posture

Employees and contractors today are working outside conventional environments and often on hardware that was never intended to be on corporate networks. The result is an increased risk of security breaches and data loss and, in many cases, missed business opportunities. ESG has found that organizations that adopt Windows 365 can help enhance their security posture in the following areas.

  • Inclusive, Secure, yet Flexible remote work – Cloud PCs can enable a hybrid workforce in a highly secure manner, even if those workers sometimes or always do their work on devices that aren’t expected to have direct access to corporate networks. Windows 365 Cloud PCs offer a layer of isolation that provides strong protection for the work environment and helps prevent data leakage or loss, with configurable options for how the Cloud PC interact with available physical device.
  • Business continuity and governance – As we know, COVID-19 forced almost every business to suddenly rethink, re-shift and re-prioritise their approach to remote work in a matter of days – doing all they could to get devices, repurpose old kit, leverage employee’s personal devices and ramp up VDI deployments, VPN and remote access tech to enable their people to work, often at the expense of usability, security and governance. As the future of this now unfolds into the hybrid workplace we see before us, technology like Windows 365 becomes a viable BC/DR solution. In short, Windows 365 could now be a vital cornerstone of a business continuity strategy and one that minimises disruption, maintains security and governance and provides a smooth transition for users.
  • Immediate on-boarding and offboarding of employees/contractors – The cost of PC recovery in the event of an offboarded employee or contractor is high and can take weeks in today’s expanded work environment. Interestingly, IBM estimates that 44% of breach events are caused intentionally by disgruntled employees who have been terminated but still have access to company hardware and resources. One of the benefits of Windows 365 is that as well as near instant provisioning, it also allows for the immediate removal of access to the Cloud PC along with all company data.
  • Protection of company data – the FBI estimate that 1 in 10 laptop devices will be lost or stolen during their lifetime, with the risk and financial exposure per event estimated to be between £25,000 and £45,000. Since Windows 365 Cloud PC devices store no data on the host device, a lost or stolen Cloud PC can be limited to the cost of the hardware and can be instantly accessed on another device, meaning no loss of productivity and no risk or loss or theft or corporate data.

What’s your experience of Windows 365?

As always, I’d love to hear your experiences, thoughts, and feedback on this – please leave a comment in the boxes below.


To read more about Windows 365, you can also check out Microsoft’s official FAQ

Surface Laptop Go 2 – “Hands on” Review

Last year, I reviewed the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. Now, after a couple of weeks of use as my “temporary” daily machines, this is my review of the updated, 2022, Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 which starts from just £600 in the UK (about $US 700).

You can also check out my video review here:

TL;DR

So – in short, the 2022 edition of the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a fantastic device for anyone in an admin role, those who travels a lot, work in education, front-line, sales etc., that needs a “good” overall performer (for email, web, office apps, bit of Netflix or Paramount+, etc.) but isn’t a “power user”. Laptop Go 2 is sleek, fast, affordable, portable, and easily powerful enough for most productivity tasks at home or work.

Image of Surface Laptop Go 2
Surface Laptop Go 2

INTRODUCING “LAPTOP GO 2”

Version 2 of the Surface Laptop Go 2 – is every bit similar in shape, size, look at feel than the original but improves on it in several ways (under the hood). Inside, we now get an 11th Generation Intel Core processor alongside Intel Iris Xe graphics [last year’s model had the 10th Gen processors and Intel UHD graphics).

Microsoft say that the battery life in this model has also been slightly increased, partly owing to new Operating System Efficiencies in Windows 11 along with the lower power consuming 11th Gen chipsets.

LOOK AND FEEL

Laptop Go 2 weighs in at just 1.13kg and measures just 278.2mm x 206.2mm x 15.7mm – making it beautifully compact and lightweight and ideal for both students or anyone who travels or commutes a lot who are looking for something small, light but functional to take back and forth on the daily commute.

As you come to expect with a Surface Device, Laptop Go 2 is sleek and stylish. It comes in four colours including the standard Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone. The model I tested was the Platinum model which is made of lightweight aluminium and has the familiar mirrored Microsoft logo on the lid.

When you open the clam-shell lid, you are presented with a full-size rubberised plastic keyboard, which Microsoft claims “provides 30% more key travel than the MacBook Air and a large trackpad. Being a more “budget friendly” device, there is no backlighting on the keyboard and the trackpad doesn’t have haptic feedback like the new Surface Laptop Studio debuted.

The power button (which does light up), also serves as a fingerprint sensor which you can use with Windows Hello to unlock the laptop.

Connectivity-wise, you get the same ports as on the Surface Laptop and last year’s Laptop Go 1 – a Single USB-C port (which supports 4K video), Single USB-A port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and the Surface Connect port which it uses for charging. You also get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Note: the USB-C port doesn’t support charging like many new laptops, so you’ll need to keep using the Surface Connect Port charger which comes in the box.

The screen on the Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024p and a 3:2 aspect ratio like that found on most of the newer Surface family. The display is bright, clear, and sharp with great colours and black blacks – event in direct sunlight. Don’t get me wrong, Surface Laptop Go 2 is not intended for professional-level graphics or artwork, but it is more than good for viewing documents, web pages or watching videos. It also doesn’t support use of the Surface Pen, which is of course another cost saving thing.

The Webcam – is tiny and located between two small spatial microphones on the top edge of the screen. Unlike the “bigger” versions of Surface, this does not support Windows Hello and is only a 720p. This is the one area I wish Microsoft hadn’t “saved money” on as webcam quality is important in the new world of hybrid and remote work. I’m also so used to the Windows Hello Camera and personally prefer it over the fingerprint reader. Microsoft say that the camera on the Laptop Go 2 is an upgrade on last year’s model and features a “new camera module providing improved brightness, contrast and colour balance“.

Image taken from Teams Call on Surface Laptop Go 2
Image taken from Teams on Surface Laptop Go 2

Low light and bright backlight quality was handled well, but the image did feel a little grainy at full screen – I think I’d still prefer at 1080p webcam though – feels like a compromise we don’t need.

SPECS, PEFORMANCE & BATTERY

SPECIFICATIONS
The device I’ve had on loan, is powered by a Quadcore, 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, the Intel Iris Xe graphics chipset and 16GB RAM along with a 256GB SSD.

Like all Surface’s Laptop Go 2 is available in both consumer and business editions. The business version ships with Windows 11 Professional and providing enhanced secure features including Secured-Core   security features, which includes a dedicated physical TPM 2.0 chip (rather than virtual TPM in firmware which the consumer model has).  
Choices are otherwise limited in these more budget friendly devices, and Microsoft simply give you options over how much RAM and SSD storage you need.

The entry level unit has 128GB SSD, but only 4GB RAM and no fingerprint reader.

PERFORMANCE
Spoiler
– Laptop Go 2 is not designed to compete with the bigger members of the Surace family like the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro or Studio when it comes to raw power, and graphics performance, but it did do a decent job of everything I threw at it. Throughout my week of testing, I had multiple apps open, including Teams, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook and used it a few evenings for watching a few films and even tried out Clipchamp to edit one of my son’s YouTube “clips” he’d made all without feeling like I was using an under-powered device. I even managed a bit of Minecraft on the device as well as playing TrainSimWorld 2 and Forza Horizon using Xbox Streaming – more on that later!!

BATTERY LIFE
Microsoft states that Laptop Go 2 provides up to 13.5 hours of ‘typical device usage’, but my loan device lasted about 25% less than that – 9hrs 16mins in fact of constant use in my usual home working test scenario:

  • Connected via Wi-Fi.
  • Screen Brightness set to auto.
  • Bluetooth connected headset, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Mix of normal daily use – no special tests – 8-10 Teams Video Calls (camera on), Core Office desktop apps and some social media apps and web browsing.
  • Connected to 4K Ultrawide screen via Surface Dock v1.

This is, I would say the main area of disappointment compared to the advertised specs – as I think you’d still want to take a power adapter out with you – “just in case”.

9 hrs isn’t awful but it’s nowhere near the “up to 13.5hrs”.

One day Microsoft will get this bit right and maybe when (if) they shift to ARM based chipsets for Laptop Go and Surface Go we will see battery life closer to what Apple manage to squeeze out their “M” chip-based devices. performance out of the battery.

XBOX GAME STREAMING

So – this was never going to be the best experience, but while on holiday on the Isle of Wight (if you haven’t been – you should go by the way), I wanted to test Xbox remote play on our Xbox One X (I know I know, where’s the Series-X!). My first test was done running on NowTV broadband (70Mbps or so).

On returning home yesterday, I then recreated the scenario from my desk, streaming from the same Xbox (which is in the same house). The experience was pretty much the same.

In summary, for fast framerate games like this, I’d say “it works pretty well”. Game play was surprisingly good. It did struggle with the odd refresh glitch and jittery in places on high frame-rate games (I was testing it with Forza Horizon 4) but overall and given the spec of the Surface Laptop Go 2, was more impressed than I thought I’d be. The video below show’s how this played out.

Xbox Cloud Streaming – Forza Horizon 4

ROUNDING IT ALL UP

Battery life aside – Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great all-rounder device for students, consumers or business users that are on more of a budget or than need something new and modern, gorgeous, and premium in feel that is both ultra-portable, and good enough for everything a “typical user” needs.

If you are big into gaming, (see above) big graphics/design and art, or you are a number crunching, coding, power-user then, you’ll want to look at the high-end devices like the Surface Laptop Studio or Surface Book 3 – though you can “get buy” when travelling if you need a game-fix and want to play remote or cloud play with the Xbox App.

Check on the hands-on video review here:


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Microsoft Defender “top of the class” for ransomware detection and blocking.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint has just received top marks for the latest Advanced Threat Protection Test carried out by AV-Test in Feb 2022.

The report (which tested many of the top products including Microsoft Defender in both the home and commercial space) found that it was best-in-class in terms of its ransomware detection and blocking.

The Advanced Threat Protection tests provide vendors and users with substantial findings as to how securely a product can protect against ransomware in real-life scenarios.

… All the products have to successfully defend against ransomware in 10 real-life scenarios under Windows. The test involves threats such as files containing hidden malware in archives, PowerPoint files with scripts or HTML files with malicious content.

AV-TEST

Top Marks

The tests were carried out amongst 14 of the top anti virus and endpoint protection products in the consumer and commercial space including:

  • Acronis
  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Bitdefender
  • Kaspersky
  • F-Secure
  • McAfee (Trellix)
  • Microsoft
  • Symantec

Whilst Microsoft came out joint top for all the tests in the corporate space, the lowest of the scores were McAfee / Trellix who AV-TEST claim were unable to fully block ransomware attacks in multiple different attack scenarios:

Microsoft Defender AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22
McAfee AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22

You can access the full reports from AV-TEST here.

Good news for consumers and corporate

In short this should be good news for corporate customers that use Microsoft Defender (which is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11) as well as consumers.

Consumers in particular are often sold additional third party antivirus and anti ransomware products when they buy a new computer, buy software or through advertising and whilst there may be good reasons to buy additional products, these results should demonstrate just how good Microsoft are at protecting consumers and corporate clients who use their products.

Defender is part of a much bigger family

In the corporate space at least, Microsoft Defender is a an entire multiplatform, multi vendor platform suite of. Integrated services for protecting corporate systems and data from attack, breach, ransomware and theft. Their product suite extends across Identity (Defender for Identity), Cloud, Endpoint, IoT and Office 365 to name just a few.

You can find out more about the Microsoft Defender suite of products for corporate customers here.

Microsoft also annouced last month the release of Microsoft Defender for individuals which provides enterprise grade protection for Microsoft 365 consumers and family users. Microsoft Defender is a cross-device security app that helps individuals and families protect their data and devices, and stay safer online with malware protection, real-time security notifications, and security tips. You can read more here.

Windows 11 Build 22621.169 is rolling out for Release Preview Channel Insiders

After Microsoft released the Windows 11 22H2 update to the Release Preview channel back in June, they have now started to roll out a new cumulative update for Windows Insiders that are running the Windows 11 build 22621 in the Release Preview channel. As you’d expect, this update is mainly focussed on essential bug fixes as we get closer to the formal 22H2 release.

You can visit the official blog site for the full list of changes here.

The major changes / fixes in this build include

  • Fixing the issue which stopped OneDrive working correctly via the file explorer shell
  • Adding support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 in the Windows client and server LDAP implementations.
  • Fixed an issue with Edge sandbox mode.

How to Join the Windows Insider programme

For instructions on how to join the Windows Insider Program and join your device to the Release Preview Channel, click here.

Defending Ukraine: Microsoft share conclusions of their cyber-attacks’ defensives against Russian attacks

As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, Microsoft has taken some of the lessons they have learnt from their cyber attack defensive assistance of Ukraine at the start of the war and have now shared their insights with the world to learn from.

In a recent blog post on Microsoft’s “Microsoft on the Issues” site, Brad Smith, Microsoft VP and Chairman, shared highlights of the re-occurring themes around how the war in Ukraine follows a similar yet updated parallel to other historical battles but with a modern cyber focussed offensive now a huge part of the war-plan.

In this most recent blog, Brad Smith discussed the three-part strategy Microsoft has discovered and observed during their early defense assistance of Ukraine. He calls out “destructive cyberattacks within Ukraine, network penetration and espionage outside Ukraine, and cyber influence operations targeting people around the world.”

The wider report goes into detail around how Microsoft’s are continuing their efforts in assisting in the defense of technological targets in Ukraine as well as the continuous evolving strategy Microsoft is pushing to further help harden businesses, institutions, governments, and nations against future cyber-attacks.

The Russian military poured across the Ukrainian border on February 24, 2022, with a combination of troops, tanks, aircraft, and cruise missiles. But the first shots were in fact fired hours before when the calendar still said February 23. They involved a cyberweapon called “Foxblade” that was launched against computers in Ukraine. Reflecting the technology of our time, those among the first to observe the attack were half a world away, working in the United States in Redmond, Washington.

Brad Smith | Vice President | Microsoft

Conclusions and how to defend against state nation attacks

Microsoft say that to defend against similar state-nation coordinated attacks you first need to understand the approach, what has worked and what needs to be done to allow other state nations and countries to better protect against cyber warfare. The conclusions of the report (which you can read in depth here), highlights the following:

  1. Defense against a military invasion now requires for most countries the ability to disburse and distribute digital operations and data assets across borders and into other countries.
  2. Recent advances in cyber threat intelligence and end-point protection have helped Ukraine withstand a high percentage of destructive Russian cyberattacks.
  3. As a coalition of countries has come together to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up network penetration and espionage activities targeting allied governments outside Ukraine.
  4. In coordination with these other cyber activities, Russian agencies are conducting global cyber-influence operations to support their war efforts. Russian agencies are focusing their cyber-influence operations on four distinct audiences. They are targeting the Russian population with the goal of sustaining support for the war effort. They are targeting the Ukrainian population with the goal of undermining confidence in the country’s willingness and ability to withstand Russian attacks. They are targeting American and European populations with the goal of undermining Western unity and deflecting criticism of Russian military war crimes. And they are starting to target populations in nonaligned countries, potentially in part to sustain their support at the United Nations and in other venues.
  5. Finally, the lessons from Ukraine call for a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to strengthen defenses against the full range of cyber destructive, espionage, and influence operations.

The Wider Comprehensive Report

Cyber warfare Ukraine Image

Finally, Brad Smith references the extensive comprehensive report “Defending Ukraine: Early Lessons from the Cyber War” that Microsoft have also recently published which can be read and downloaded here.

Cisco Live 2022: Cisco Catalyst Management is coming to the Meraki cloud

At Cisco Live 2022 this week, Cisco annouced that Catalyst is coming to the Meraki cloud which put simply means that organisations will now be able to manage their Catalyst switches and access points using the Cisco Meraki cloud dashboard, providing a centralised view of the network with real-time switch status and health.

Image (c) Cisco Meraki

Supported platforms

At time of launch, the Catalyst 9200, 9300 and 9500 switching platforms will be supported in the Meraki dashboard with two different options:

  • Cloud Monitoring (monitoring only)
  • Cloud Management (monitoring and config management)

Licensing

  • Monitored Catalyst switches needs only a Meraki license.
  • Fully managed Catalyst switches requires DNA Advantage (DNA-A) or DNA Essentials (DNA-E) licensing.

The main difference between the two switching licenses is that DNA-E will not include application visibility or client usage data.

Is this the end to DNA Center?

Put simply, No. What Cisco is doing is providing more flexibility and options to their customers. It will mean, however that organisations will need to make a choice as to where that want to manage their Cisco Catalyst infrastructure. In Meraki, in DNA Center, or standalone.

Once a Catalyst switch is fully managed by Meraki it will no longer be an IOS device and will instead run Cisco Meraki software. If the Catalyst switch is a monitored only switch though, it will still be accessible and manageable via the CLI.

New Catalyst Wireless Switches

Cisco also annouced that they are introducing three new Catalyst wireless access points that can be managed by their Meraki dashboard or a C9800 controller.

  • Catalyst CW9166
  • Catalyst CW9164
  • Catalyst CW9162

Feature Partity with DNA Center?

No.. Well not initially anyway.

Since this is the first iteration of Catalyst management within the Meraki Cloud dashboard, there will not be feature parity with what is possible with the CLI or DNA Center. Initially all the core basic basic monitoring and configuration will be available and Cisco have a said a feature list and roadmap will be published soon.

Why are Cisco taking this approach?

Cisco have traditionally been continuing to build on-premises software solutions, such as DNA Center, but with their increased focus of software subscriptions and cloud this is a logical move and something their competition have been doing for a while.

Since the aquisition of Meraki back in 2013, Cisco have continued to try to provided multiple options for their customers and this appears to eb a great move into that hybrid space, providing and option for scenarios where DNA Center maybe too much or complex, but a more simplistic cloud managed approach with a Meraki may well fit organisations who want cloud management with Meraki while still having the feature-rich capabilities of the Catalyst product set.

Getting Started…

Cisco advise their customers to speak to their account manager, work with their trusted a isco partner and / or to check out their get started guide. There’s no need to go full in and organisations can start their move cloud management for Catalyst at their own pace.


Read the full detail from Cisco

Microsoft Viva Sales: Aims to provide seamless integration from any CRM into Office 365 and Teams.

With the annoucement the Viva Sales platform, Microsoft aims to help organisations harness the power of their existing CRM platform and seamless expose this within and across Microsoft Teams and Office 365 without third party apps, plug-ins, or data exchange tools. Microsoft’s goal is a native, common and familiar experience regardless of an organisations choice of CRM system.

Viva Sales will connect customer data across from any CRM into Teams and Office.
Image: (c) Microsoft

This approach is not unique to Microsoft. Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack last year was in part to enable them to ramp up their communications tools for sales teams. Microsoft, however, is not looking to compete directly with Salesforce or any specific CRM vendor. Microsoft’s goal here is more around “filling gaps” left behind by legacy and traditional CRM systems that done provides the “smarts” that systems like Salesforce and Dynamics 365 provide for example.

In the official announcement of Viva Sales, Microsoft said:

We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system, the difficulty is, a lot of what’s happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it’s just too tedious.”.

Jared Spataro | Corporate VP for Microsoft 365

What does Viva Sales do?

Due for release in Q4 2022, Viva Sales will allow sales and marketing teams to automatically synchronise data between any, and all, of their communications applications such as Microsoft Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system which does not have to be Dynamics 365 either. This is like the Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Slack integration, and what Microsoft have done natively with Dynamics 365 and Teams.

In their official blog, Microsoft describe Viva Sales as a intelligent service which enables sellers to capture insights from across Microsoft 365 and Teams, eliminate manual data entry, and receive AI-driven recommendations and reminders – while staying in the flow of work. Viva Sales promises to streamline the seller experience by surfacing the insights with the right context within tools people already use, without them needed to dip in and out of their CRM therefore saving time and ensuring that the CRM becomes part fo the core workflow without compromise on the productivity tools the teams use across the wider organisation.

Microsoft say that Viva Sales will work with any CRM to automate data entry and brings AI-powered intelligence to sellers in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

The key benefit for organisations using Viva Sales is that is that Viva is already (naturally) integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook which are used and adopted.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales however. What!!!?, Well, Microsoft has a much broader vision with Viva to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite and Teams. This strategy is demonstrated by the incredible reach and integration available through the Microsoft Graph – a major part of strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tools and more towards the type of workflow play displayed and respected by the likes of ServiceNow.

A Change of Approach

This approach is a strategic shift for Microsoft. In the past, Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy was to require their customers to choose their products such as Teams and Dynamics 365 over the say WebEx, Zoom and then Salesforce or HubSpot. With Viva Sales, this is now about choosing what products work for you and then leveraging the intelligence services through Viva and the Microsoft Graph to bridge them together and provide data intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together.”.

Microsoft

Microsoft have compared the enterprise software industry to that of a city, where it is built from the ground up. For example, If Azure, AWS and GCP are the city’s foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”

What do you think?

What do you think of the announcement? Is this a good move for Microsoft or are sellers better off just working in their native CRM?




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Microsoft ends support for their once-dominant web browser Internet Explorer.

Today (June 15th 2022), what was once the “king of the web browsers” has officially retired after 27 years, marking the end of an era. As of now Internet Explorer is officially “end of life”.

Bill Gates and Microsoft Internet Explorer Logo
Bill Gates – Showcases Internet Explorer (c)

Microsoft Internet Explorer was released in 1995 and quickly became the dominant browser, almost instantly wiping out the previous dominant player Netscape. Internet Explorer was the dominant web-browser for more than a decade as it was bundled with the Windows operating system (similar to how Edge is today) that came pre-installed on billions of computers.

What does “End-of-life” mean?

In short, just that – it’s dead. Officially, “End of life” refers to the point in time when an application is no longer supported by the software company that makes it. In this case, Microsoft’s end of life for Internet Explorer means continued use of the browser after today is still allowed, but Microsoft will no longer update it, patch it or support it if something goes wrong.

This is important since new computer viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks are developed daily, and the web-browser is a major window into many of the apps that employees, customers, consumers use every day. Users should therefore stop using Internet Explorer use their modern Chromium-based Edge browser (or other 3rd party choice) since no more security updates will be provided by Microsoft as of now.

It has been a while coming

This has been a while coming, ever since Internet Explorer’s market share continued to be dominated by Google Chrome and others and Microsoft announced, and launched it’s new Edge Browser which built on the open source Chromium framework which Google uses within it’s Chrome browser.

Microsoft had already ended support for Internet Explorer for their Teams web app back in 2020, shortly followed by removing support across their other key web apps and services including OneDrive, Dynamnics, PowerApps, Outlook and Office from August 2021.

“Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10,”

Microsoft

Microsoft will continue to be supported in very few situations including with customers running the Windows 10 long term services branch (ltsb).

The Future is Edge

Microsoft Edge, was released in 2015 and was upgraded in 2019 to include the Chromium open-source code which Microsoft is now a major contributor along side Google and others. The move was done to compete with more popular browsers like Google Chrome, which has (and still does in part) dominated the market.

Microsoft Edge is a modern open-source browser and offers improved compatibility, streamlined productivity, and hugely better browser security.

As new apps and software products are released onto the market by other companies, old software versions can’t keep up. Microsoft Edge Chromium-based browser can now support a wider variety of platforms, which makes it more useful for the modern era. IE 11, in comparison, held limitations preventing it from updating alongside newer technologies.

What about legacy web apps and sites?

For older websites and services, Microsoft Edge provides a built-in “Internet Explorer mode”, making the use of using older web browsers like Internet Explorer unnecessary.

Microsoft recognise that many larger organisations “may have a surprisingly large set of legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and apps, built up over many years.” As such Microsoft have promised to support legacy web apps via it’s Internet Explorer mode until at least 2029, which gives web developers 8 full years to modernise their legacy apps and eventually remove the need for IE mode.

Legacy Support and Help is available

Users shifting from Internet Explorer to Edge can easily transition their passwords, favourite websites, and other browsing data from to Edge.

Microsoft recommends that any organisation that still has concerns or needs to support Internet Explorer (and therefore need legacy support) do the following.


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