Microsoft to bring all tasks across Office365 into new “Tasks in Teams”

Tasks in Teams

Tasks in Teams – this will be the new name for the Planner app currently in Teams today, which will consolidate tasks across To Do, Teams Channels, Planner as well as Outlook Tasks. The goal is to bring all your tasks to ‘Tasks in Teams’ no matter where you create them.

Tasks In Teams

The new Teams Tasks app (which will replace the current planner app) will allow users to see their individual tasks as well as team tasks in a single app. This latest update will begin to rollout in May /  June this year.

Why the change?

According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the “Tasks in Teams,” feature describes the coming Tasks app as ‘providing users with a consolidation of tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook Tasks.’

New Teams Tasks View

The Microsoft 365, Teams Public Roadmap ID 57213, describes the reason for the change is that “with the new Tasks experience in Teams, we are delivering several capabilities that will support new levels of team collaboration. Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting in Teams allows corporate and regional leadership to send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued mobile device showing them exactly what to do next.”

Good idea?

What do you think. Is this a good move, confusing or a logical coming together of all your tasks in one place.?

Check out the Microsoft Tasks In Teams YouTube video

There’s now 4.1 Billion Meeting minutes a day in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).

Incredible usage numbers

Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.

What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.

The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.

In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.

Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”

Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management

I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.

User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).

Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards:  ISO 27001ISO 27018SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2HIPAA , and  EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.

What happens after Covid19?

Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.

Windows 10 May 2020 Update – My top 5 new features

The next update to Windows 10 (called cleverly “May 2020 Update” will be out next month (May 2020) as is available in the Release Preview #WindowsInsider Ring if you want to try it safely before it officially lands.

As this is the release preview (or release candidate as it used to be known), this should be  the final version of the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, which means, so long as no major bugs are detected or reported, the update should be available early next month for all Windows 10 users.

Unlike Windows XP, 7 and 8, Windows 10 is delivered as a service which means that as well as releasing security updates and patches as required, Microsoft provides major updates to Windows 10 twice a year – once in the spring and again in the autumn. These bi-annual updates are usually big feature updates and this latest version update will be the Windows 10 May 2020 Update.

To make it easy for users and enterprise admins to check the global status of known application compatibility and bug reports, Microsoft has a Windows release health dashboard that offers a status on the rollout and any known issues for the May 2020 Update. This is Microsoft’s way of being more cautious and transparent about updates following the October 2018 Update that caused file deletion issues.

Windows 10 health info

What’s new in the May 2020 Update?

As you’d expect, Microsoft provides detailed information about all the changes and new features in each release/update to Windows 10 which you can see here.  There are loads – some major and some minor and some simple performance and other behind the scenes updates. I’ve provided a summary of my top 5 below. 

1. You can now label your Virtual Desktops

In case you didn’t know, Windows 10 allows you have separate desktop instances to help keep your personal and work life separate or to simply organise your desktop for different projects for example.

To get to and add additional Windows 10’s virtual desktops, you simply head over to the Task View interface (by pressing Windows+Tab on your keyboard). Whereas these were previous just labelled “Desktop 1″, “Desktop 2,” etc.  you can now rename them.

Virtual Desktop Dialogues

To do this, just click the name of each virtual desktop at the top of the Task View interface and then type a name. What is nice is that these names can even use emoji (press Windows+. to get emoji picker).

2. New Disk type and GPU temperature in Task Manager

Task Manager now displays your disk type, whether it’s SSD or HDD, which makes it much easier to see the type of hardware in your device. These details are displayed on the Performance tab which you can get to by opening Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and then clicking “More Details”.

The Task Manager’s performance tab also now displays your GPU temperature. To get to this, go to your GPU’s status page under the Performance tab. This works with dedicated graphics cards only.

3. Faster (and working) Windows Search

Last years’ Windows 10 May 2019 Update fixed the Start menu search by taking advantage of the old Windows search indexer. Unfortunately, reports from users, admins and #WindowsInsiders of excessive disk and CPU usage and other overall performance issues, meant many simply turned off the search indexer.

Microsoft says this is now fixed, since the search indexer now detects peak usage times so it can better optimise when the indexer runs and can also pause if the device gets busy again while indexer is running. 

4. Re-install from the Cloud

In this build, Microsoft has introduced a new re-install from Cloud option in the recovery section of settings, which can be used when resetting your PC to a new default Windows build.

To do this, go to Settings > Update and Security > Recovery and choose to reset your PC and remove everything, and then you can tell Windows to use “Cloud Download”, instead of reinstalling Windows 10 from the files on your local system or needing to provide a USB with the Windows 10 media on. This is much like the way iOS and Android devices now work.

This method is also expected to come to Enterprise imaging and update tools like System Centre and Intune very soon.

5. Improved Network Status pane

The network status page which can be found at Settings > Network & Internet > Status has been had an overhaul and new lick of paint in this update. This is much easier to navigate and now the main network status at the top of the page.

Windows 10 Network Status Settings
Windows 10 Network Status Settings

This layout doesn’t add anything new but makes provides better and more relevant information without having to click through loads of options – its also easier to access the trouble-shooters. 

I do find it frustrating that tasks like renaming adaptors for example, still opens the legacy Control Panel settings!!  – Microsoft are gradually retiring of these, however.

6. Native Support for Network Cameras

Ok, so I said top 5 – but this one almost made the list so thought I’d talk about it. 

In this release – Windows 10 is adding support for IP-based cameras.  With this, it will now be possible to add network-based cameras by going to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and other devices > Add Bluetooth or another device.

If there’s a supported camera on your local network, Windows 10 will be able to find it, or you can add it to your system in one simple click.

Once done, you will then be able to use the native, built-in Camera application to access the network camera without needing to use a third-party app.

 

“SMS sign in” for Microsoft Teams* now in public preview.

Another #MicrosoftTeams feature is rolling out (ok so it’s in public preview so pretty much rolled out).

This time is a feature aimed more at front line workers like retail for example who may oy have a mobile phone to access their busienss apps.

Introducing SMS based user sign-in

With SMS based user sign-in, users can simply sign-in with their phone number and receive a code via SMS, which will then log them in (the number needs to be registered against them in Azure Active Directory).

How’s it works?

Worth noting that this is just in preview and is still some key features missing (a key one being this doesn’t yet work with MFA… But it will).

As I mentioned in the introduction SMS-based authentication, lets users sign in without needing to provide, or even know, their username and password. After their account is created by an identity administrator, they can enter their phone number at the sign-in prompt, and provide an authentication code that’s sent to them via text message. This authentication method simplifies access to applications and services, especially for front line workers.

Whilst this will work for any Office 365, it’s primary aim is to help front line workers use and login to Team in mobile device as the illustration below shows

Each user enabled for SMS-sign in must have one of the following Azure AD or Microsoft 365 licenses:
– Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 or
– Microsoft 365 F1 or F3

Current limitations

Microsoft have clearly detailed a number of limitations which will apply during the public preview including.

  • SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • With the exception of Teams, SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with native Office applications.
  • SMS-based authentication isn’t recommended for B2B accounts.
  • Federated users won’t authenticate in the home tenant. They only authenticate in the cloud.

To learn more and for instructions in how to active and configure SMS sign in, see the Microsoft supporting information here.

Other Azure AD Passwordless options.

For additional ways to sign in to Azure AD without a password, such as the Microsoft Authenticator App or FIDO2 security keys, you can review the Passwordless authentication options for Azure AD.

“Pop out” chat support starts rolling out in Microsoft Teams

Multi-Window Chat is a new Microsoft Teams feature which enables users to multitask more efficiently by popping out their chat conversations into separate Windows much like was possible in Skype for Business and Lync before.

Microsoft announced this was rolling out this month (April) as part of a wave of updates announced on their 3rd “birthday”.

Why we need it (and we so do)!

Pop out chat (video and others are coming soon too) has been one of the most requested features in Teams since when enaged in multiple chats, is can be a little cumbersome (especially now with us all working from home) to effectively to monitor and manage chats across multiple teams or groups since you can’t currently have these chats in separate Windows.

This new pop-out feature helps you overcome this challenge, allowing you to “pop out” chats your Teams’ chat in a separate window meaning you can keep important conversations and chats going while you are in a meeting or working elsewhere in Teams without loosing context.

How it works.

As with most things in #MicrosoftTeams there’s a couple of ways users can pop-out their conversations:

  1. The simplest – double click on the display picture (avatar) of the person whose chat you want to pop-out
  2. Click “Pop out chat” from the context menu for a chat that is listed in the chat list
  3. Click the ‘pop out’ button in the top-right corner of the chat header.
  4. For those that prefer the command prompt, use the slash command /pop
Pop out chat in Microsoft Teams

Available now..?

Almost.. At the time of writing, I’ve seen tweets that some of my customers and friends are seeing this already as of today (Friday 24th April) mine hasn’t updated yet…

Keep hitting the “check for updates”!

How to Make your Windows10 desktop beautiful with bing!

Microsoft has launched a new Bing Wallpaper app which has been requested numerous times by many Windows fans and #WindowsInsiders like myself. 

Bing Wallpaper app

Once downloaded and launched (use the link above as there not a Windows Store App oddly), the the app makes it possible to set the Bing image of the day background as your desktop wallpaper on Windows 10 and it will automatically change your desktop background wall paper each day to match the Bing one which let’s face it, are quite beuatiful!

One installed, you can also toggle between the images and switch through many of the different Bing homepage wallpapers from throughout the week by simply right-clicking in the taskbar and pressing the left and right arrow keys.

That’s it… Let me know what you think. I’ve always been a big fan on bing wallpapers!

Verizon jumps into video conferencing space by acquiring BlueJeans

As the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing most companies to shift their operations to collaboration and video conferencing tools like Slack, Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams, all of these services have seen a huge jump in useage and in their share prices!

Verizon isn’t a name you’d usually think of in this suave until, maybe, now with their acquisition of Bluejeans.

BlueJeans, provide a video interoperability gateway service as well as a simple but encrypted videoconferencing platform with around 15, 000 customers. By acquiring Bluejeans, Verizon will not only be able to compete in the video conferencing space, but can also leverage its global footprint to scale the service further and assist users in areas including field service work, distance learning and telemedicine.

Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin, said in a press release

“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools.”

Verizon’s CEO, Tami Erwin

Quentin Gallivan, CEO of Bluejeans has said that the agreement will allow the company to “accelerate product development to innovate secure and immersive collaboration experiences for our customers. In addition, we will be able to leverage the R&D of both companies to create compelling innovations to enhance our offering in use cases like telemedicine, distance learning and field service.

Longer term?

Who know how this will develop and extend. Whether they verizon will keep this as a niche product set or if they will plan to look to compete and integrate / interoperate it with other products will remain to be seen..

What’s your thoughts?

Is Microsoft about to start tredding on the “big boys” as they acquire Affirmed Networks, to get foot into 5G software defined nefworks?

Microsoft has agreed to buy Affirmed Networks, a company that builds tools that enable software-defined networking capabilities, such as network function virtualisation (or NFV), across the emerging 5G infrastructure.

Today, Affirmed Networks provides a way for global mobile/data data carriers to grow networks to meet increasing demand by drawing on virtualised cloud based infrastructure.

Affirmed existing customers include AT&T, Orange, SoftBank, Telus and Vodafone.

Why the purchase?

This is a smart move I think, since adding 5G capability and integrated services to drive their Azure cloud busienss and in particular edge computing services like AzureStack through 5G smart networking makes a lot of sense….

This would of course help Microsoft leap forward and accelerate their Azure Cloud business by allowing them to develop and sell products/services that are more appropriate for a specific industries that focus on alway connected and edge based services in line with global network operators roll out of this new super fast 5G connectivity.

It’s all about mobile and edge computing

This acquisition has the potential, if executed correctly, to put Microsoft into a very key and unique position in the 5G world, since this now gives them a guaranteed “seat” at the table with the other major 5G telcos and other large service providers all over the world.

Not only could Microsoft use this connection to have Azure potentially serve as a core platform for 5G infrastructure, it also provides a potential capability to bring cloud computing resources running on Azure closer to the network infrastructure – speeding up and simplifying the running of cloud-based edge apps and services across 5G networks.

Is Microsoft about to tread firmly on Cisco’s Feet in the NFV space?

Of course, only time will tell how well Microsoft make use of this new acquisition and use it to drive forward with smart 5G connected Azure Services.

Cisco, has also been making significant investments in software for enabling virtualised networks (NFV) as has also been working with global telcos.

If fact, Cisco are already in deep partnership with Rakuten helping to power what many believe is the world’s first completely cloud-native virtualised telco network scheduled to publicly in Japan in May/June 2020. This will leveraging vast amounts of computing power from Intel-powered whitebox servers and will be powered by Cisco’s Virtualized Infrastructure Manager and is powered by Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Nexus 9000 switches.

This blog by Cisco goes into the technical depth about how this will tech will help streamline 5G network providers so its clear why Microsoft have jumped in at this early stage too..

https://blogs.cisco.com/sp/enabling-rakuten-cloud-platform-with-cisco-nfvi-and-orchestration-solutions

What’s next?

Knowing Microsoft, it won’t be long before we hear more and I expect to see this become and feature/add on for Azure Stack in comimh months.

Regardless of what happens, though, it’s clear that there’s a new level of intensity and focus on the 5G infrastructure market that’s likely to increase over the next few years.

One thing is for sure.. This won’t be a one legged race and I expect to see more disruption in this space.

4 to 9 is not 49 but its’ a leap in the right direction for #MicrosoftTeams

There’s no doubt Microsoft haven’t been busy this past few months with some may say, it’s own rapid #MicrosoftTeams feature response took to #covid_19.

Whilst in preview for many at Microsoft for a while, Microsoft posted to twitter and the uservoice feedback site this afternoon (Monday 13th April) to announce that it will very shortly (we beleive this month) be increasing the number of participants viewed simultaneously on the meeting view from the current 4 to 9.

Teams 3×3 display (Image (C) Microsoft.)

Zoom however, lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen

Microsoft have also said though publicly, that they are “continuing work to increase this limit even further.”

User voice update

Is this all just to compete with Zoom?

In parts I think… Yes

But… Microsoft have been working on this for a couple of years but was obviously never really seen as a huge priority (despite the number of user requests).

Bear in mind Teams isn’t Zoom, but we often compare aspects of a product with a different solution. Zoom is purely a video conferencing service (whereas Teams is far more than that… Chat, channels, co-authoring, secure collaboration and integrated into Microsoft 365).

Of late though with everyone working from home, due to #covid19, Zooms features have been priased both in both the enterprise (security noise aside) and personal space…

I think this is mainly because Zoom lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen and whilst this is probably not practice to required for most Enterprises (but great maybe for schools and gym classes) the user community seems to think that the changes don’t go far enough to help with orgs with large team sizes….so the pressure on Microsoft to increase this further is by far from over!

Zoom can show up to 49 live video windows

Summary

Given the focus on enterprise and quality however it is likely Microsoft will put security and quality ahead of just features in this “turf war” and they have said they are continuing work to increase the limit even further “soon”.

Cisco and Microsoft report huge surge in Webex and Teams as use of Video Surges due to Covid-19

Cisco and Microsoft are amungst the two enterprise leading platforms that have seen a huge surge in usage numbers as organisations around the world move to online meetings to working and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Microsoft and Cisco measure and record their numbers differently so its sometimes hard to compare one with the other, but the overall set of numbers are staggering.

Cisco Webex

Cisco’s has said their Web conferencing platform Webex has unsurprisingly seen a huge surge in usage numbers as organisations around the world move to online meetings to working and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cisco recorded a peak of record 4 million meetings in one day on March 18 2020 up almost 100% on the number of global meetings that took place before the week before the outbreak hit.

Cisco have said that in the first 20 days of March alone, they hosted 7 billion minutes of meetings on Webex (an average of 350 million minutes a day) day with the duration of the meetings typically 22% longer than usual. company also saw a drastic increase in users signing up on its platform.

Cisco also recorded a record 324 million meeting attendees last month.

Microsoft Teams

Cisco’s news comes the same week as Microsoft also announced they had seen a new peak of a staggering 2.7billion minutes in one day, a 200% increase on the previous week and the total number of video calls in Teams grow by over 1,000 % in the month of March.

Image and data from Microsoft

Turn on Video to make online meetings more natural…

Cisco, like Zoom and Microsoft have recently made Webex free during Covid-19 with a view naturally to attract new users to the platform and to help grow usage within existing business who adjust use Webex across parts of their business. This is naturally driving usage of the platforms at huge pace as most of the world works from home!

While video can’t truly replace in-person meetings, it can actually be more productive, peoplr are using video more than normal as the social distancing seems to be a new way of life for a time to come.

In Microsoft’s Remote work trend report, they state that “Researchers like Dr. Fiona Kerr have found that eye contact and physical connection with another human increases dopamine and decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Her research shows that you can even physically calm someone down simply by looking them in the eye. So as the world works remotely, it is no surprise people are turning on video in Teams meetings two times more than before many of us began working from home full-time“…

Image from Microsoft.

Summary

So turn on that video everyone…personally I find it really helps me feel ready for my day. When I went to the office I’d (try) to make myself look presentable, so just because I’m working from home for the foreseeable future why should that change… The notion of getting ready for work and expecting face to face communication certainly gets me into work mode and seeing people (even over Teams or Webex) really does make me feel more connected and less distant from the people I am used to seeing on a daily basis.

Sources: Remote work trend report & Revoult Business Report.