How to try out the new redesigned Microsoft Teams “public preview” design.

Since #MicrosoftTeams first launched back in 2017, the core design of the interface hasn’t really changed visually as Microsoft Teams hasn’t really seen a lot of visual or design changes with the familiar “grey and purple” coloured side-navigation bars, and the purple title bar.

Screenshot of Teams Dark mode
Screenshot of Current Microsoft Teams Desktop in dark-mode

A Fresh Lick of Paint

Back in October 2020, Microsoft announced some changes for Teams, including the introduction of new “Fluent icons” and subtle colour changes to Teams both for the light (default) mode and the more popular dark mode in which the changes are much more obvious.

Microsoft recently made it possible to users (if enabled by the Teams Global Admin) to test out some of “coming soon” changes to Teams through a new public preview feature. This new fluent design update is the latest to show itself in the preview. I’m enabled within our corporate environment to try these out, which I have done – and here’s the new fresher view that is coming to everyone soon. 

As you can see below, the dark is much more dark (just compare to your own Teams client), and the icons on the left pane are refreshed a much more modern looking and, well just cleaner. Screenshot of Teams desktop showing Fluent Design

Ooooh…so how do I try the new Teams design?

Great question and it’s really easy to do so long as your company Microsoft Teams / Office 365 admin has enabled the ability for users to “opt in” from the Teams Admin Center. 

Screenshot showing how to enable Teams preview in Teams Admin Centre

One this is done (ask them), you (as a user), need to “enroll” your Teams app into the public preview program to get the preview features.

To do this, simply click on your profile picture at the top, click “about”, and then enable the “public preview” option, as shown below. You will get a notification which will alert you that you are about to switch to the public preview version of the Teams Client. At this point you will be signed out (if you aren’t you need to manually sign-out) and will then need to sign back in.

Enabling Teams Preview in the Teams client

What else is in Preview?

Microsoft publish the features of all release and preview versions of their Office 365 apps here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdates/current-channel-preview

Additionally, any user can give feedback to Microsoft on Teams by going to the
Help > Give Feedback within the Teams client.

Finally, Microsoft has a Microsoft Teams Public Preview space on their Tech Community Site which can be found here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-public-preview/bd-p/MicrosoftTeamsPublicPreview

Can I switch back?

Yep – simply follow the steps above but untick the option for the public preview, sign-out and back in again. 

Say Hello to the SurfacePro 7+

Surface Promo

Microsoft today have announced some subtle but important updates to their Surface family which I wanted to share with you quickly.

As always, I welcome any comments and thoughts – are you a fan or always on Surface range? What’s your thoughts on Hub 2S?

Surface Pro 7+ (not the “Pro 8”) Launched

The Surface Pro 5 shipped with an LTE variant which was and remained popular but neither the Pro 6 nor Pro 7 included an LTE variant which was extremely frustrating for organisations that wanted always on Surface Devices. Until now the only way to that was to move to the ARM based Surface Pro X or the baby Surface Go LTE...until now that is!

Announcing -the Surface Pro 7+ (yes, not sure why it’s not the Pro 8)

Image of Surface Pro 7+
Image of the Surface Pro 7 plus (courtesy Microsoft)

 

The Pro 7+ includes the following key updates to last year’s Surface Pro 7:

  • 11th Gen Processor options
    • Dual-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i3-1115G4 Processor (Wi-Fi)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 Processor (Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi AND LTE)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor (Wi-Fi)
  • Same form factor as Pro 7
  • 2.1x faster than the Pro 7 (10th Gen) 
  • Optional LTE Support on select models
  • Battery is bigger and longer with 4.5x better than the Pro 5 LTE
  • Now includes removable SSD – like the Surface ProX

 

Surface Hub 2S 85”

The latest news here is that shipping of the latest giant 85″ Surface Hub has started shipping with US, UK and other shipping this month (existing orders) and EU following in early Feb followed by other regions such as Asia-Pac / India etc by March 2021.

Surface Hub 2S 85"

Surface Hub2S 85″ (courtesy Microsoft)

Microsoft spent a bit of time focusing on the huge achievements they have made here, not just on getting the device ready, but getting it ready for shipment and fulfilment globally – which given the pressures on manufacturing due to COVID-19 and Microsoft’s previous “challenges” in getting Surface Hub v1 into market this was well called out!

For those not familiar, Hub 2 S 85″ is a beast but a thing of beauty. If builds on the gorgeous look and familiar Surface family feel but also provides a nice upgrade to the (now 5-year-old) Surface Hub V1 84″. It’s still heavy at 85kgs but won’t require 4 of the “world’s strongest man contestants” at least to move into position and wall mount it. There’s also of course the familiar Steelcase wall mounts and roam stands available.

You can see the full spec’s in the image below

Surface Hub 2S 85" Specs

 

 

 

New Windows 10 Insider build 21286 brings integrated news and interests feed into the taskbar

Microsoft is looking at making the Windows 10 taskbar more useful and interactive by brining your common interests, news a d weather into a neat interactive task bar applet that is designed to keep you productive by not having to open an app or browser to check the latest news, weather or sports results score.

Rolling out in the latest #WindowsInsiders dev build (21286), Microsoft has adding a customisable and collapsible news and interests feed directly to the Windows 10 taskbar.

The collapsible news and interests feed in action (Image (C) Microsoft)

The news feed can be fully personalised to show you news headlines, sports, weather information, and more. Microsoft says the feed can be populated with content from over 4,500 international publications that include the likes of Sky, BBC etc.

Using it seems simple and natural… when you click on an article, it opens in a ‘streamlined reading view’ that dusht get in the way of your apps… And if you don’t like it you can turn it off!

Check it oot if you are a #windowsinsider sna renege to feed back using the feedback hub!

Updated Review: Lenovo ThinkSmart View for Teams

Lenovo ThinkSmart Display

 

Updated: December 2020

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!

You may ask why, when employees have access to laptops, web browsers, smart phones and tablets, all more than capable of running Microsoft Teams, so we need a dedicated Teams Collaboration Display….

Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View

The Lenovo ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for hosting and taking part in Microsoft Teams audio and video calls – the devices of which can be managed by the Lenovo ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.

Lenovo ThinkSmart Display
Picture of Lenovo ThinkSmart display for Teams

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 and a price point that really appeals.

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. Initially, and when first reviewed the device earlier this year, the device was really just for joining meetings and for Teams Phone features, however the update in September 2020 brought the FULL Teams Mobile features to the device including:

  • Phone
    • Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
    • Common Area and Personal Phone Support
    • Hot Desking Support
  • Meetings
    • Support Live Captions / Subtitles
    • Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
    • Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
    • Raise hand support
    • Better Together for Calling & Meeting
  • IM and Chat
    • Full support for starting, participating, navigating and interacting with Chat 
  • Files
    • Full access to your recent files and full access to your OneDrive
  • Organisational View
    • View your Team and company org chart

My other favourite is the ability for colleagues (or most likely, your kids to leave you a message, voice memo or video memo) on the device if you are away from your desk (more likely..in the loo or getting a coffee!)

What’s in the box?

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

What’s the Price?

The retail for these is £229 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.

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.
  • Supports software background blur in Teams meetings
  • 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 the audience it has been designed for. I think initially it’s designed for the exec or manager’s office – but with the 2020 being the year of “remote working”, this is ideally suited as a second / dedicated Teams end-point… 

Audio is surprising good – rather than the often tinny sounds you get from laptop speakers, the 10-Watt full-range speaker in the ThinkSmart View has 2 passive tweeters allowing it to produce loud, crisp and clear audio, and testing on the receiving end (yes, I called my self), the audio picked up by the 360-degree microphone array was also “room system” quality in my opinion. Audio is important…. with virtual meetings, the spoken voice is the most important aspect of the call/meeting and while video is king, now more than ever, you can more easily forgive poor quality video as long as audio is sharp and clear.

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!

Within the “office environment”, the Lenovo ThinkSmart display can also fill the need for a “walk up and use” video collab device which can be placed in a small focus space or breakout area  – especially as it supports “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!

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 – who’s device is due to launch early 2021 and is rumoured to have a battery as well as being mains powered which is the main thing missing from the Lenovo in my opinion. 

Summary

As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent. There is a premium feel to the device and its weighted on one-side, presumably to prevent accidental movement or repositioning. Its not heavy though – no heavier than a Bluetooth speaker the weight just helps with positioning and premium feel. 

At just over £200 (RRP is £240 as of Dec 2020), it’s a great device to buy a handful of, to test out the use case within your organisation – a few of the clients I work with have done just this. 

Click here to visit the Lenovo Website

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review -Much better than you might think..

Surface Devices

Introduction

Anyone that reads my blogs/ramblings will know I’m a huge fan of Windows 10 and Surface and I have reviewed a fair few of them over the past 18 months.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is a more than capable, great looking, and best of all “affordable” premium laptop from Microsoft that is every bit “Surface”..well almost!

Surface Laptop Go starts at just £549 in the UK (as of Nov 2020) and it’s not often that you can find a “premium device” at this price point that isn’t plasticy, chunky, heavy, and slow (often with several generation old processors) – which is the typical trend around this price point – after all you get what you pay for right!

Here’s my hands on review.

Hands-on Review

What I find funny about Surface is that many analysts/reviewers (I won’t name names) often slate Surface for being an overpriced device when compared to, well, cheaper, non-premium device, but then again Surface is a premium brand, and, like Apple and premium does carry a price tag. What I think everyone who has ever had a Surface (from Surface Pro 4 and upwards) will agree, is that Microsoft do make some pretty awesome, good-looking, powerful and extremely productive devices with ink and touch and the centre of the Surface and Microsoft 365 message…. (more on that later).

If you’ve not experienced Surface before, then I truly think you are missing out.. Its like having a mediocre smart phone and then having never picked up a flagship Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy Phone. You have to try Surface!

Speeds, Feeds and Bolt-ons

Starting at just £549, the Surface Laptop Go package weighs a solid 2.44 lbs and feels every bit as premium as its larger flagship brother- the Surface Laptop. 

The base / entry level features:

  • 12.4-inch 2:3 ratio touch screen with 10-point multi-touch
  • 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor
  • 64GB of eMMC storage (with upgrade options to 128 GB or 256 GB SSD)
  • 1x USB-C and 1x USB-A port
  • Headphone Jack (yep – still got it)
  • Mid-range Intel UHD graphics
  • 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (upgradable to 256GB)
  • 720p HD f2.0 front-facing webcam (not Windows Hello)
  • Firmware based TPM chip
  • All day battery (and it really is!).

What is missing?

There is of course “some” compromise in getting a premium device like Surface down to this price point, but thereof this brand and I must admit, I was surprised by two omissions on the Laptop Go (given it’s a sibling of the Surface Go).

  1. No LTE option (one of things that makes the Surface Go so great – you never know they might add an option in early 2021)
  2. No Windows Hello camera – though the high spec models have a Windows Hello finger-print reader. If you are used to Surface like me then you may find this hard to get used to!
  3. Whilst the Surface Laptop Go has a really nice and responsive touch screen, the one thing that really got me was this device does not support ink and pen – which is the first Surface to be released without pen or ink support – this “personally” is a big no no for me…Its a surface…. its a signature feature (ok rant over). 

What Spec did I test?

Microsoft sent me an evaluation unit (my company, Cisilion are Microsoft Gold Partners for Surface), which was a more beefed-up model and had: –

  • 16 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Windows Hello (via Fingerprint Reader)

How did it pan out?

Really well actually.

Screen:
I’ve read a few comments from other reviewers about “poor” screen quality! It’s not – it is just not as higher-resolution as the screen on the Laptop 3 and Surface Pro (as you’d expect for the price). The screen on the Laptop Go is the standard 3:2 ratio and features the much “as standard on Surface” ten-point multi touch. 

Battery: Microsoft claims up to 13 hours of usage, but in the week that I was testing for 50% work (Outlook, Teams, Word, PowerPoint) and 50% social (web, social, Netflix etc) and it managed on average just over 9.5hrs. 

Laptop Go will easily get anyone through a full day without having to charge/top it up which was one of my “issues” with the original Surface Go and while it’s not a big issue, charging is limited to the Surface charger cable – and it’s a shame for such a mobile device that charging isn’t supported via USB-C.

Performance: Ok so I was actually really impressed by just how well this little gem performed. I’ve been using “my” Laptop Go for a full week as main daily driver (my usual device is a Surface Book 2) and had none, absolutely none, performance issues at all. I has this connected to a Surface Dock (1st gen), driving a second screen and running every thing I need – Teams, Office Apps, PowerBI, Web Apps, CRM – everything. 

Noise: What? What a funny category to add Rob! So I added this category because, whilst the Laptop Go is silent most of the time, when you dial up the performance and drive a second screen, the Fan was on, almost continuously. Dial it back to “Better Performance” the fan turned off though with lots of apps open and the device on mains power, I favour “Best Performance Mode”. 

The Crux of it – Would I recommend and for what?

In short – yes!!

Building on the success of Surface Laptop the new Laptop Go is great device for anyone (home or business) that needs a light, good looking, mid-range laptop that is still a beautiful looking device – which this is.

The question of course is who’s it good for and when. Again I think there some great use cases

  • Education – DEFINATELY (all day battery, light, powerful)
  • Most Workers – DEFINATELY either as a second device or a primary device if you don’t need a powerhouse
  • Developers/Power Users – NOPE.
  • Home Use – DEFINATELY

I cant comment on the entry level version of course, but from what I have seen and experienced from a battery, processor performance these are great devices. Laptop Go is the ideal choice for the school (its a Windows device too so no application compromises) and the 10th Gen Intel Core i5 is meaty enough to get through any classroom task!

My Advice

  • For business – get a couple try them out – you’ll be surprised
  • For home – If you are buying a new laptop for home – don’t by  cheap clunky heap of plastic. Buy this – you’ll love it, your kids will love it. They are great.

Here’s what’s new in Windows 10s’ “October 2020 Update”

Windows 10 20H2 Update Image

Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 feature has started rolling out and is known as the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, version 20H2. This is the second Windows 10 update this calendar year and brings enhancements to the May 2020 update adding subtle design and performance tweaks rather than bringing loads of new features and changes.

This update is delivered as a cumulative update that is installed on top of version 2004, which means that the update isn’t a full install/upgrade so doesn’t take long to install…. If, however you are not on version 20H2, then the update is delivered as full upgrade. 

Here, I walk through the key changes that I feel are worth a mention – let me know if I have missed anything you feel is worth a mention.

Start menu changes

In this build the Start menu has been streamlined with a tweaked design that removes the solid colour background behind the icon in the apps list and applies a partially transparent background to the tiles, which matches the menu colour scheme that should help to make easier to scan and find an app quickly.

Windows 10 20H2 StartMenu

 

Taskbar Changes

For new users (doesn’t apply to devices upgraded), Windows 10 “can” 0offer a more personalised layout, cleaner, and less clutter taskbar experience. A notable example of this is for users that use the Android “link your phone” or “Your Phone” app – they will now see the Your Phone app pinned in the taskbar. For personal users, if they have an Xbox Live account, then they also see the Xbox app pined by default to the task bar. 

Notifications improvements 

Another subtle change in this build are some changes to the notification experience. From this build onwards, there a new notification icon at the top of the notification group to help the user understand the app that generated the alert/notification.

Also, worth mentioning, the Windows 10 OS now also turns off the Focus Assist notification and summary toast by default to avoid unwanted distractions – though this can be re-enabled if needed.

Changes to “Settings” pages

Microsoft continue to move old settings services to the new Windows 10 Settings pages as well as tweaking the existing pages

  • The About settings page now allows you to copy the device information to the clipboard
  • Any “link” that would have traditionally opened the System page in the old Control Panel will now direct you to the About page in Settings.
  • Microsoft have added the ability to control and change the refresh rate for different connected displayed under the updated Advanced display settings page. 

Changes to the Tablet experience

Since the very first version of Windows 10 back in 2015, Microsoft has had a tablet mode designed to make navigating Windows 10 on a touch screen tablet more…well, tablet like.

This is one of the most slated features in Windows 10 so it’s nice to see that us been given a bit of love in this update. The new tablet experience, introduced with this update, is now the default mode when detaching the keyboard on convertible devices. I like this since it means that users will no longer see a notification asking to select a mode when in keyboardless mode. Microsoft have also removed the tablet mode quick action on non-touch enabled devices

Finally, there is a new control “logic” that allows users to boot into the appropriate mode according to the mode they were last signed in and whether the keyboard is attached to the device or not.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium is baked in)

In this build, Microsoft is now shipping their new Chromium powered Microsoft Edge browser into the Windows 10 operating system. What’s also nice is that open browser tabs will now appear in the App Switcher (Alt + Tab) shortcut like separate apps, but Microsoft do allow this experience to be changed under Settings > System > Multitasking allowing users to configure the Alt + Tab experience to show none, last three, last five tabs or all. 

Windows 10 Multi-Taskingh Settings on Windows 10 20H2

Updated naming conventions on this and future builds

As of this version, Microsoft is also changing the versioning scheme from the year and month (for example 1903) to year and half one or two of the year scheme (for example, this October 2020 Update is version 20H2 because is releasing in the second half of 2020).

What’s Next?

As such the next update which is currently in preliminary stages of testing with #WindowsInsiders using this new versioning scheme, the next version is therefore expected to be 21H1, since it’s expected to release during the first half of 2021.

If you are interested in signing up as an “insider”, you can do so here: 

Not only can you contribute feedback and ideas to the future of Windows10, you can even get recognised for your enthusiasm and drive by coming an MVP!

 

 

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….