Enterprise Connect 2021: Microsoft announces 5 new Calling Plan countries taking total to 33.

At Enterprise Connect today, Nicole Herskowitz made a handful of announcements about further enhancements and improvements to a Teams including the announcement that Microsoft Teams Calling Plans is being expanding into 5 new markets

  • Croatia
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Slobenia

Native calling plans now in 33 countries

Native Microsoft Teams Calling now in 33 countries

Enabling calling in Teams

As well as buying and enabling calling plans direct from Microsoft (where Microsoft essentially becomes your PSTN provider), there are two other ways to get a phone number and PSTN connectivity direct from within Microsoft Teams.

Direct Routing – which is essentially “bring your own SBC or Carrier) which allows you to keep your existing SIP provider and connect to it via a certified SBC

Carrier Connect – which went into General Availability today, allows organisations to enable PSTN in Teams direct via participating operators which connect direct into Teams via Azure.

Covered in detail here, carrier connect provides potential benefits to larger/global organisations (over Microsoft Calling plans) including:

  • Keeping preferred operator contracts, while enabling modern calling experience in Teams.
  • Rapid deployment of calling in Teams by connecting directly via Teams to your existing operator and assigning phone numbers to users.
  • Reduced hardware and management costs since PSTN services and SBCs are managed by the operator
  • Enhanced, global support since Carrier Connect operators are responsible for shared service level agreements.

Read more

Read more on the official annoucements from Enterprise Connect here.

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/operator-connect-general-availability-and-new-microsoft-teams/ba-p/2783723

What we might see at the Surface Event tommorow (22nd Sept).

Based on leaks, past years and media gossip we expect to see:-

  • Surface Book 4
  • Surface Pro 8
  • Surface Go 2
  • Surface Duo 2 (aka surface phone)

So as my friends, colleagues and followers know I’m a big fan of Windows and Surface so just a tad excited for the annual Surface hardware event on Wed Sept 22nd 2021.

There’s been loads of coverage by Windows Central for example as well as many other spotters and bloggers as well as what has been refreshed in previous years. As such ere’s what might be coming based on the rumours and leaks and update history of past events.

Surface Book 4?

One of the most rumoured design changes “may” be coming to the Power horse that is the Surface Book 4. This (if true) will be a major uplift to the current model and w is expected to feature a brand new design with non-detachable 2-in-1 design which will basically combining the best of Surface Laptop with the Surface Pro form factor to create the new Book 4.

Based on the renders and numerous leaks, the display on the Surface Book 4 will be able to be pulled forward and laid flat over the keyboard deck for drawing or taking notes which also resembles similaraires to the Surface Studio.

Leaked images of Surface Book 4 (maybe)

I’d expect the usual upgrades to the internals, USB A to be ditched in favour of USB C (or even thunderbolt) and upgraded graphics capability and a possible increase in screen refresh rate to match the new dynamic refresh which is part of #Windows11.

The big question is will this in fact be called a Surface Book 4 or something else… Time will tell.. But I think its fair to say that this is likley to be the biggest highlight of the event on Wednesday.

Surface Pro 8

The flagship Surface Pro device (which will most likely be called the Surface Pro 8) should also be unveiled.

Surface Pro Black

There is unlikely to be any major design changes but there are rumours we will see a more Surface Pro X feel to this years model with a bigger display and thinner bezels. There also be the usual spec upgrades to chipsets and processors to the latest and greatest.

There also been reports that Microsoft might be ready to up the screen to support a new dynamic refresh rate of up 120Hz for this years higher end Surface devices.

Surface Go 3

The ever popular Surface Go is likely see just a modest upgrade this year with better chipsets and battery and again will most likley keep the Intel Pentium Gold processor as well as an i3 (or maybe i5 option to match the Surface Laptop).

Surface Go

Other than, not expecting much else other than it would be nice to see an option of black… Everyone loves a black Surface.

Surface Duo 2

I loved the Duo v1 (price tag aside) but it lacked a lot of leasing features that would have earned more airtime…

There been lots of rumours and leaks in this one but we hope to see a much better phone that still builds on the amazing looks and quality of the original. We expect and hope to see it feature at least:

  • Latest Processor (Snapdragon 888)
  • 5G and Bluetooth 5
  • Upgraded camera, as well as rear cluster
  • NFC
  • Upgraded battery and Screen
Surface Duo 2. Image (C) Windows Central

A new Surface Studio?

I’d love to see a new Studio but not heard any rumours on this one and suspect the new Surface Book 4 may create the hybrid graphics powerhouse in a mobile form… Who knows…we all will in a days time.

Where to watch the event?

The event is streamed live at 4pm UK time (11am ET) and can be watched (or register for a reminder) here.

Link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/event

What are you most excited for?

Please leave your comments below…

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair…Thank you for inspiring so many.

Just taking a moment to remember Sir Clive Sinclair. A man who inspired many (like me) to get into computing at a young age.

I was never a #zx80, #zx81 or #ZXSpectrum boy myself but my many of my friends were. I personally went down the BBC Micro then Commodore Vic20/Plus4/C64 and Amiga route), but the ZX range inspired many and innovated / kick started the affordable computer games era.

The ZX Spectrum was the successor of the mono coloured ZX80 and ZX81 which had (limited) colour graphics and the unmistakable tinny audio and really was the beginning of the UK games industry. Whilst (IMO) not as good as the completion, it was significantly more affordable than the likes of Commodore and BBC Micro which drove demand and got droves of teenagers into computing. The “hello world” Basic programming era was born!

Who remembers the noise when the games loaded (from tape) as the splash screen was ray traced? Couldn’t resist sharing this video..

Close your eyes and step back in time…

ZX Spectrum Game Loading


Those games that took longer to load than play, the see though graphics, and games like jetpac and Elite will be continue to be legacies.

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair.
#computing #innovation #1980s #gaming #videogames

Microsoft now lets you make your password more secure….by removing it completely!

Microsoft has made a giant leap forward in making your online world more secure by making passwords optional for personal MSA accounts like your personal Office 365 account/Hotmail etc.

It’s no secret, that Microsoft is actively striving to make passwords a thing of the past by supporting passwordless accounts. Microsoft already have support for passwordless sign in for commercial Microsoft 365 users as well as personal (MSA) accounts, but is taking this a step further by allowing the password to be totally removed!!!

Beginning today, you can now completely remove the password from your Microsoft consumer account. Use Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello, a security key, or a verification code sent to your phone or email to sign in to your favourite apps and services, such as Outlook, OneDrive, FamilySafety, and more.

Vasu Jakkal | CVP of Microsoft Security

How is passwordless more secure than MFA?

Firstly, Microsoft isn’t alone in their view here with both Facebook and Google also starting to actively champion the “death of the password” which is typically the weakest link in online account security since it’s often compromised stolen or phished. Lets face it, nobody likes passwords as we have to create evermore complex and unique passwords, remember them, and change them frequently (and of course use different ones across different sites).

In a blog on the topic today, Microsoft said that they “have heard great feedback from our enterprise customers who have been on the passwordless journey with us. In fact, Microsoft itself is a great test case — nearly 100% of our employees use passwordless options to log in to their corporate account.”.

Going Passwordless

In order to make your MSA account totally passwordless, you need to ensure you have and are using the Microsoft Authenticator app on your phone and ensure it’s set-up to use Muti-Factor Authentication.

Once this is working, you can then go to https://account.microsoft.com , sign in, and then navigate to “Advanced Security Options”. Once here, you should now see a subsection called “Additional Security Options” where there will be a “Passwordless Account” option, which you can turn on.

Enabling Passwordless

It is unknown if or when Microsoft will remove passwords all together and at the moment, you can still re-add a password for your Microsoft account if you want/need to.

Real time co-authoring on protected files is now supported in Microsoft 365 Apps

Microsoft have announced that real-time co-authoring support for encrypted documents (which has been in preview for a while) is now generally available. Co-authoring is a feature that allows users to collaborate on documents across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for example, but it only worked on files that weren’t protected with encrypted….. until now.

CoAuthoring Proetected Documents
Image (C) Microsoft

 

With Microsoft 365, when sensitivity labels are used to encrypt Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents, multiple users can now edit these documents in real-time with AutoSave, empowering teams to do their best work while maintaining protection across the document lifecycle,” Paras Kapadia, Principal Program Manager for Office 365 explained.

Co-authoring support for protected files is supported now on the Web, Windows and Apple Mac clients and will be coming to iOS and Android “soon“.

You must “enable it” to enable it!!

It’s worth noting that unlike many Microsoft 365 features which are “on by default”, organisations who want to use co-authoring on protected documents need to enable this in the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center.

Microsoft 365 Compliance Centre

 

Microsoft also provide full guidance for admins on how to do this here.
Please note: once enabled, you need to contact Microsoft support should you want/need to turn this off for any reason.

How Microsoft is making Windows 11 run faster than Windows 10 on the same hardware.

Windows 11 will be the first version of Windows developed under the leadership of Panos Panay.

In final stages of development, tweaks and bug squashes before the official release in October, Microsoft is introducing Windows 11 as the first version of Windows developed for a hybrid work world. Windows 11 will ship with a major UI design overhaul, new start menu, new modern components (though some legacy components still remain) and what is touted to be a much more developer-friendly App Store,

Faster and More efficient

It’s important to also know that there are is also a heap load of important changes under the hood of Windows 11 too.

Microsoft have provided various technical docs along with a new YouTube video from Microsoft Mechanics which detail these various optimisation and performance improvements which you can watch below.

Windows 11 performance improvements

If you watch the video, you will see the Windows Management team explain why and how Windows 11 feels more responsive and faster than Windows 10 on the same hardware due to “a lot of work in memory management to favour the app windows you have running in the foreground so that they’re prioritised with more CPU and other system resources.”.

Unlike Windows 10, Microsoft have ensured that with Windows 11 foreground optimisation now also applies not only to the focus and running apps but also to the Windows shell and open tabs within Microsoft Edge (made possible though Microsoft Edge’s Sleeping Tabs feature).

Microsoft claim that this results in average Memory efficiency gains of 32% and up to 37% for processor usage, which of course therefore equate to faster performance, better mutki taking and more efficient use of battery (longer life).

Microsoft also explains in the video, they have achieved an “almost instantaneous” resume from sleep experience for most Windows 11 users. Microsoft also claim that Windows Hello is now 30% faster also (not that it was slow before).

A word in updates too..

Finally and probably one of the most noticeable things I have found in testing as part of the Windows Insider Programme is that Windows 11 updates are and will be significantly smaller and faster to install.

With the updated Windows Update, the update components only download the necessary files from Microsoft rather than the whole update making updates on average 40% smaller. Thus reducing network bandwidth and increasing update speed. Which is massively noticeable with updates (in testing) taking well under 5 mins.

Read more..

You can read more on this on the Microsoft Tech community here.

Microsoft kills off MSN and Starts.com again!!

Microsoft has annouced and launched (starting today) Microsoft Start, which is a new(ish)/revamped personalised news service which pulls together personalised and targeted news and information from the Microsoft anews Service (MSN) and from “more than a thousand” other publishers.

“Microsoft Start” (image (C) Microsoft)

Microsoft Start will be available via the web at MicrosoftStart.Com, from the Microsoft Edge “new tab” page, Windows PCs, tablets and mobile devices and will provide a consistent yet personalised feed with news feeds and stories coming from a over a thousand selected publishers, which will be fine tuned as users like or dislike content or content types that appear in their feeds as Microsoft Start learns more about the user.

“Microsoft Start brings new technology to content experiences, including Microsoft’s latest advancements in AI and machine learning, coupled with human moderation, to help people stay up to date with information that is personalized for their interests.”

Liat Ben-Zur | Microsoft CVP

You can read the official annoucement from the Microsoft blog here:

Get started with MicrosoftStart

The Start experience currently looks and feels familiar (I’d almost go as far as saying the same) as the existing MSN service. Users can customise Start by clicking on the “Personalize” button which will allows access to managing interests and tweaking the types of news recommendations the service provides.

Microsoft Start seems to be a combination of a number of different Microsoft services, including Cortana and MSN. For example the Cortana app (as it was) was able to use AI and Machine Learning to determine your interests and display the latest “useful” news and headlines in the feed, as well give you travel time estimates based to meetings based on your location.

Microsoft Start has adaptive “cards” similar in some ways to the old “live tiles” in Windows 8-10 and the widgits in Windows 11 today. These cards provide updates to things like local weather, breaking news, finance, traffic, and sports etc.

The experience on Edge is pretty much no different to the current MSN one and the http://microsoftstart.com url even redirects you to https://www.msn.com but I expect this will change over the next few days as the service rolls out.

Microsoft do say though that Microsoft Start doesn’t replace MSN.com, and the dedicated Microsoft News app for Windows 10 and Windows 11 will continue to exist for the time being.

Why the name change?

You’ve got me on this one….

Microsoft haven’t offically revealed why they have brought in a brand new name for the service. Microsoft News Service (MSN) worked for me (like Apple News, or Sky News or BBC news) it was it was and did…

I’m sure we will find out more at somepoint though… There’s always a reason after all..

Available now…..

Microsoft Start is live now at MicrosoftStart.com, and is live on the Microsoft Edge new tab page (try it), the News and interests taskbar thingy on Windows 10, and also in the Widgets app IN Windows 11.

In the coming days, the Microsoft News app on Android and Apple iOS will be updated and rebranded to Microsoft Start (so don’t confuse it with something else!) .

Microsoft search in Google play store.

Thoughts?

What do you think of the new service?

What do you think of the name change?

“Defender for Endpoints” will now be included for free as part of Microsoft 365 E3/A3

Microsoft Security Logo

Microsoft have announced a more cost effective endpoint protection plan for Microsoft 365 and Windows customers. Named Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 this provides comprehensive threat prevention and protection for any endpoints including those running Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS and will be included for free in Microsoft 365 E3/A5 SKUs.

The existing Microsoft Defender for Endpoints SKU will become Defender for Endpoints Plan 2 and is the version currently included in Windows E5 and Microsoft 365 E5.

Microsoft say that this new solution “will make it easier for more security teams across the globe to buy and adopt the best of breed fundamentals of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint” and will provide generation protection, device control, endpoint firewall, network protection, web content filtering, attack surface reduction rules, controlled folder access, device based conditional access, APIs and connectors, and the ability to bring your own custom TI are some of the capabilities of this new plan.

Why now?

The endpoint remains one of the most targeted attack surfaces as new and sophisticated malware and ransomware continue to be prevalent threats and it’s not slowing down. Ransomware in particular continues to persist and evolve, financial damage continues to increase, and the impact is felt across numerous industries.

Over the last year, Microsoft have seen more than a 120% increase in organisations who have encountered some form of ransomware attack as shown in the graphic provided by Microsoft.

thumbnail image 1 captioned Volume of organizations affected by ransomware.
Image from Microsoft Security

Microsoft are keen to ensure they provide “security for all” and this comes just days after a commitment with Biden to invest more than $20billion in security over the next 5 years.

Microsoft claims they already provide best of breed, multi-platform, and multi-cloud security for all organisations across the globe and their integrated suite of security and threat protection and remediation services provides simplified, comprehensive protection that prevents breaches and enables our customers to innovate and grow.

Microsoft say that “as part of that commitment, we’re excited to offer a foundational set of our market leading endpoint security capabilities for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS at a lower price in a new solution to be named Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 (P1) which will also be included in Microsoft 365 E3 for free.

Licensing and Pricing

The great news is that “Plan 1” will be included in Microsoft 365 E3 /A3 at no addition cost and will be a made available as a low cost add-on for other SKUs. Microsoft 365 E5/A5 will continue to include Defender for Endpoint “Plan 2”.

This is currently in public preview, meaning you can sign-up for it for free for 90 days now. After the 90 days is up, you can buy this from your friendly Microsoft CSP or licensing partner. Customers already of Microsoft 365 E3/A5 will get this for free once released for General Availability (within the next 90 days) and will then be able to enable/user the service.

thumbnail image 10 captioned Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 capabilities are offered as a standalone license or as part of Microsoft 365 E3.
How to buy Defender for Endpoints Plan 1

Plan and Plan 2 compared

The diagram below shows the extent of the threat protection and remediation services offered by Microsoft Defender for Endpoints.

thumbnail image 2 captioned Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 offers attack surface reduction, next generation protection, APIs and integration, and a unfied security experience for client endpoints including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (C) Microsoft.

Plan 1 is aimed at organisations looking for mainly endpoint protection (EPP) where you get best of breed fundamentals in prevention and protection for all your client endpoints. It includes next generation protection, device control, endpoint firewall, network protection, web content filtering, attack surface reduction rules, controlled folder access, device based conditional access, APIs and connectors, and the ability to bring your own custom TI. Finally, it includes access to the Microsoft 365 Defender security experience to view alerts and incidents, security dashboards, device inventory, and perform investigations and manual response actions on next generation protection events.

Plan 2 is aimed at most larger enterprises who need full endpoint detection and response (EDR). This builds on Plan 1 and provides full EDR capabilities to further prevent security breaches, reduce time to remediation, and minimise the scope of attacks with vulnerability management, endpoint detection and response, fully automated remediation, advanced hunting, sandboxing, managed hunting services, and in-depth threat intelligence and analysis about the latest malware campaigns and nation state threats.

The below table offers a comparison of capabilities are offered in Plan 1 versus Plan 2.

thumbnail image 3 captioned Comparison between Microsoft Defender for Endpoint P1 and P2 capabilities.
Image (c) Microsoft.

Getting Started

You can sign up for the preview using the link here, and Microsoft have provided a detailed blog which goes into more detail than have shared above also provide a simple walk-through for admins and sec ops.

You can also read the latest Gartner report which details Industry leading security capabilities.

More new stuff rolled to Teams while the kids on their summer 2021 holidays!

Here’s my summary of the top new capabilities and changes that were released in Microsoft Teams over the summer break.

As usual the official teams blog details all the changes in detail as usual. Here’s the high level summary however.

Meetings and webinars

Here’s the new and updated for meetings and webinars in August:

  • Reporter and Side-by-Side options in Presenter Mode when sharing / presenting content.
  • New assignment experience in separate window for Teams Breakout Rooms.
  • Live Captions and Live Transcript in 27 additional languages.
  • Ability to start recording and live transcript simultaneously.
  • Ability to set meetings to start recording automatically.
Image courtesy Microsoft

The new presentation modes, namely, reporter mode and side by side mode are the main new standout features for meetings and webinars this month. In this presentation mode, Teams places the presention / screen behind or next to the presenter and places content next to them in a similar way to how a presenter looks on TV.

Teams Room Devices

A fair number of new features and enhancements was released for Teams Room devices this month including the following…

Hdmi Ingest Teams
Image from Microsoft
  • Native Support for screen sharing with HDMI ingest
  • Auto answer for Meet Now meetings
  • New remote provisioning and sign-in experience for admins
  • 1080p resolution for outgoing video
  • Teams panels released and shipping
  • Ability to better customise the Teams panels experience with Teams Extensibility/LoB app support
  • Ability to hide / omit meeting names for sensitive spaces or meeting topics
  • New bunch of Teams Certified Devices

Teams Education updates

Teams for Education got a chunk of updates over the summer holiday, the biggest new feature being the Reading Progress feature, which lets students practice their reading. Teaching staff can review the recorded practice of students within the Assignments section of Teams.

Here’s key features and changes that rolled out for Teams for Education in August 2021:

  • Ability to create, edit, and join Microsoft Teams meetings in Canvas.
  • Ability to communicate and collaborate with class teams from Blackboard.
  • Reading Progress feature addition.
  • Updated and simplified navigation across class teams.

The full verbose version

The full list of features and enhancements can be found in the official Teams Blog here.

Windows 11 release date announced …

Windows 11 logo

Microsoft announced today that Windows 11, will be officially released on October 5, 2021 and will start rolling out to “eligible” Windows 10 devices on that date onwards.

Windows 11 will also come pre-installed on many new devices from Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Samsung etc.

Windows 11 is already available for WindowInsiders and the “beta testing” will continue though to October 5 and then continue for the next batch of feature releases as it did with Windows 10.

Windows 11 start menu

Windows 11 requirements

Whilst Microsoft annouced last week that some select 7th gen Intel chipsets (like Surface Studio 2) will support Windows 11, in most cases the core system requirements include:

  • ‘modern’ 64bit dual-core or higher CPU
  • 4GB of RAM (but 8GB ideally)
  • 64GB storage (SSD ideally)
  • DirectX12 supported GPU
  • Secure Boot
  • TPM 2.0 chip (enabled) in UEFI settings

Phased Rollout

As usual with Windows updates and upgrades the  Windows 11 upgrade will roll out gradually to devices that meet the minimum requirements for Windows PCs and say their upgrade system will use “intelligence algorithms” to make it available on more devices over time. “We expect all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022,” Microsoft said in the annoucement.

Interestly, Microsoft said last week that users will be able to use Windows 11 ISOs to manually install Windows 11 on unsupported PC though there is a caveat in that Microsoft are not committed to service these devices via Windows Update, and that includes security updates.

One thing to note is that Android app support, a feature announced during the Windows 11 unveiling event, won’t be shipping this year but will start testing with Windows Insiders soon.

What about Windows 10 support

For devices not capable of running Windows 11, or for users/organisation not ready to move to Windows 11, Windows 10 will still be supported through to 2025.

Read more about Windows 11

You can read more about the new and upcoming features in my previous blogs or on the official Microsoft Blog