Microsoft Teams goes into innovation overdrive with host of new features…

After being criticised for several months now as playing catch up to Zoom, Microsoft has just announced a host of new innovate features in Microsoft Teams that will make virtual interactions much more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human.

Microsoft say these new features offer three key benefits

  1. They will help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue.
  2. They will make meetings more inclusive and engaging
  3. They will help streamline work and save time

Microsoft say that it is all about “enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere” and it’s all backed up by months of scientific research and analysis to how people have been working, the pressures and announces they have faced as people have and continue to spend more time in virtual meetings than physical ones.

Let’s start with the Official Microsoft promo video

1. Feeling more connected and reducing meeting fatigue

Together Mode

“Together Mode” is a new meeting experience that will help reduce fatigue during remote collaboration. This feature will place participants in a shared virtual background to make it feel like everyone is sitting in the same room/space with all other meeting participants. Here, Microsoft is aiming to make your video meetings more engaging by helping us focus on the faces and body language of other attendees so that you can pick up the nonverbal cues that are vital for human interaction and something that is often absent from virtual meetings. According to Microsoft “Together mode with auditorium view” is already in private preview and will be rolled out to everyone else by August 2020.

Dynamic View

Also related to video aspect of meetings, the upcoming “Dynamic View” uses AI to dynamically personalise your video meeting view to suit your preferences and needs. Microsoft acknowledged that whilst the new “Together Mode” will offers a great new meeting experience, it’s not intended or suited for every meeting. With Dynamic View, users will be able to access new controls and get the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side as well as have content and layout dynamically adapt to the meeting, number of attendees and content and other activities being drawn upon during the meeting.

An image of the new Dynamic view.
Microsoft image of Teams “Dynamic View”

Dynamic View will build on the other recent meetings enhancements, including the ability to see up to 49 participants (still rolling out) at once on a single screen, and virtual breakout rooms, which is coming later this calendar year.

Video Filters

Microsoft is bringing video filters into Teams to allow users to better customise their online appearance before joining a meeting with the help of common filters you are most likely used to on social media photo tools like Instagram etc. These filters are designed to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of your camera to make your video more “real”.

Reflect Messaging Extension

Also said to be coming in the next “few” weeks, Microsoft announced a new “Reflect messaging extension” is coming to Teams. Once installed (it’s an extension) Microsoft say it will make it easier for managers, team leaders, and teachers to track their teams’ performance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organisation for example. Note: IT admins will need to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu

Reflect Messaging Extension

Reflect Messaging will also provide the ability to add custom questions to create a poll-like experience for team members.

2. Making meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective

Live Reactions

Microsoft Teams will soon allow meeting participants to use emojis to share how they feel about the event. Emojis will appear on everyone’s screens, and the instant feedback experience will be similar to the Live feedback feature already available with PowerPoint Live presentations and in Skype Consumer as well as other popular Video Conferencing platforms such as Zoom. The latter will also be available in Microsoft Teams in the future, the company said today, while the Whiteboard app in Teams will be improved with faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities.

Emoji Feedback in Teams

Microsoft also is said to be raising the maximum number of Teams meetings participants from 300 people (just rolled out) to 1,000.

Chat Bubbles

Microsoft research suggests that during meetings, “chat has become a much more lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations, and chats all at the same time“. Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. This is set to change as Microsoft Teams meetings will soon get support for what they call chat bubbles, which will make chat messages appear on the screen for chat participants while they are in a meeting.

Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts

Microsoft is also enhancing the live captions features for teams and making transcripts more accessible and fluid also making it easy for participants to see who is speaking. Thsi is similar to what Cisco have done with WebEx in the latest update and it’s great to see this coming to Microsoft Teams later this year. Teams will also get support for more languages, as well as Live transcripts participants can download once the meeting has ended. speaker attribution

New Live Translations with Attributions in Microsoft Teams

Interactive Meetings for 1,000 attendees

Microsoft will soon allow for interactive meetings for up to 1,000 participants to allow for large groups, to come together for meetings or classes. As an alternative to Live Events (which are for town hall and broadcast sessions), Teams will now also allow you to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion where Teams will soon support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.

Teams Whiteboard Updates

The Whiteboard feature in Teams will soon be updated with a host of new features making it more aligned to the Windows and iOS version of Whiteboard. This will include faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities and will also be optimised for users that don’t have access to a touchscreen device or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.

An image of Microsoft Whiteboard updates.
Enhanced Whiteboard feature in Teams Meetings

3. Streamlining work and saving time

New Task App

Microsoft have announced a new Task app that will be available in late July/August. The Task app will give Teams users a tab within Teams that unifies all of their tasks and actions across Outlook, ToDo and Planner. In addition, it will support smart lists which will dynamically group things like “Tasks Assigned to me” and will unify tasks across different shared plans, whether you’re on desktop, web, or mobile.

Task App in Microsoft Teams

Suggested Replies

Suggested replies will enable users to utilise quick “AI-generated” responses based on contextual understandings of previous messages. These will work in a similar way to the newly rolled out “auto-replies” in text messages or email, allowing users to reply with a single click to common responses without having to type out a full message in their response.

Suggested Replied in Teams – coming July/August 2020

Microsoft Teams displays

Microsoft has also announced new extended partnerships with Yealink and Lenovo to bring what it calls the “Microsoft Teams display initiative”.

This will allow Teams users to make use of a centralised hardware offering that makes use of an ambient touchscreen coupled with a microphone and a camera to host meetings. Lenovo already have a product about to ship and yesterday announced an extended partnership with Yealink to bring new device categories into the mix later this year / early 2021.

New Teams devices – coming 2021

Touchless Meeting Experiences

Whilst Teams already has support for touchless proximity join, Microsoft has announced a host more touchlessness for its meetings which will include voice commands for leaving a meeting, adding participants, muting and unmuting rooms, adjusting audio volume, turning cameras off and on as well as wirelessly casting to any Teams enabled device.

In conjunction with this, new companion features will be rolling out to the Teams mobile app to provide Teams Rooms remote control features that will allow users to be able to be conduct entire meetings, brainstorming sessions, and presentations without ever having to physically touch meeting room equipment with their hands!

An image of Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices.
Upcoming room remote for Microsoft Teams devices

Summary

This must be one of the biggest sets of updates announced by Microsoft and shows the commitment to driving innovation, inclusion and accessibility.

Teams is the place where people everywhere come together to get work done and I’m seeing an explosive pace of deployment and adoption within my customers at @Cisilion.

One thing is for sure, with all the innovation, new features and changes to Microsoft Teams, a solid and robust Adoption and Change Management programme is needed to ensure users are educated about the changes, given the opportunity to learn and test the new features and that IT and your Teams champions have the chance to help users embrace the new features.

One last time – the new Microsoft Teams

When are these rolling out?

FeatureRoad mapped Launch Date
Together ModeSept 2020
Dynamic viewSept 2020
Video FiltersDec 2020
Reflect Messaging ExtensionAug 2020
Live ReactionsDec 2020
Chat BubblesDec 2020
Speaker Attribution for live captionsAug 2020
Speaker Attribution for live transcriptionsDec 2020
Interactive meetings for 1,000 peopleDec 2020
Whiteboard UpdatesSept 2020
Tasks AppAug 2020
Suggested RepliesAug 2020
Current Roadmap dates for new features

Microsoft Surface Go 2 – Two-week in review

18 months I did a review of the original Surface Go since I was immediately impressed at just how well suited this was as a secondary device and how for many role it was the perfect front line worker or education device.

One of the confusing factors about the original Surface Go, was really where it fitted in with the rest of the Surface family for business and who the target audience was. I certainly found that many of my customers sometimes struggled between whether their users needed a lightweight, cost effective Surface Go or whether they needed the big brother – the Surface Pro. 

Tech reviewers often slated the Surface Go (despite its sales success) as they would compare the processor and other tech-spec items, namely the (sluggish at times) Intel-Gold processor and larger than necessary screen bezel which, depending on the use and workload you put it through they were right!

The new Surface Go 2 addresses every “issue” the first model had, so long as you don’t need a mobile power-horse of a laptop of course. 

Introduction the Surface Go 2

The Surface Go 2 (I have the Intel M3/8Gb/128GB LTE version) in my opinion, and through a couple a weeks of using it as my daily driver – this upgraded version has perfectly sufficient processing power, RAM and storage for everyday use – which for me is internet browsing,  Office 365 apps (Word, PowerPoint etc) photos viewing and basic editing and consuming content like Netflix etc., and is a compelling and affordable alternative to a traditional laptop.  

SurfaceGo 2 unboxed
Surface Go 2 with Type Cover and Pen

Great Look and Feel

There are some subtle but important changes to the Surface Go 2, which make it look a lot more like an iPad Pro than the Surface Go, which is due to the smaller bezels. Overall the, dimensions of the Surface Go 2 are unchanged, but by slimming down the edges around the screen, Microsoft has managed to upgrade the screen size by 1/2 an inch which, though it doesn’t sound lot, gives the Surface Go 2 a much more modern look

SurfaceGo2 vs SurfaceGo
Image of original Surface Go screen vs new Surface Go 2 with thinner bezels

 

Specifications, Speeds and Feeds!

Looking purely at the spec sheet, the Surface Go 2 is still only a baby in terms of not only size, but performance, with a less powerful processor, smaller screen and of course, smaller keyboard but, just like the first generation, it is, however, in my opinion, great bit of modern workplace kit and deserves serious consideration when looking at future 2-in-1 purchases for both home and work.

Most of the real improvements to Surface Go 2 are tucked away under the hood.

  • Much-improved battery life. The original Surface Go was really let down by its battery life and despite the advertised “up to 9 hours“, I never got it to last more than about six. So far in testing, the Surface Go 2 has managed to serve me all day (8.5 hours) with a “normal” workload – Word, some PowerPoint, Teams Calls (I do a lot of these), and of course Outlook and some web browsing.  I did do a “how far can you go” test by setting to screen brightness to 70% and attended an all-day Teams “Live Event”, and my Surface Go 2 still had some juice in it after nine hours which I was really impressed with to be honest!
  • USB-C Charging – for when you do need more juice, the Surface Go 2 supports charging via USB-C and I could even charge it with my USB battery pack – it was quite a “trickle” charge to be fair but it charged so great for when it’s in your back-pack! 
  • 5 Mega Pixel Front Facing Camera – The Surface Go 2 has a much better front camera to what you’d expect and is better than most laptops that I come across.  This is vital of course for all those Microsoft Teams or Zoom Calls you might be doing as we all adjust to life during and after lock-down. 
  • Fast 4G (LTE) – One thing i haven’t had much use for due to COVID-19 lockdown is mobile data which is another thing that I love about the Surface Go 2. Popping a SIM into the device means you are connected all the time and for someone that “usually” spends a lots of time traveling and between meetings, being connected on the go (as well as being able to charge on the go) are great assets for the mobile modern workplace
  • It is faster. The internals, like I mentioned, have been upgraded (the higher models anyway). The model I have has the newer Intel Core M3 chip, 8Gb RAM and a 128 Gb solid state drive along with LTE (mobile data).
SurfaceGo2 Showing Mobile Data
Using Mobile Data

What about cost?

Surface Go 2 starts from just £399 (inc VAT) and as always with Surface devices, specification options, regional variations, promotions and volume, and accessories all affect the end price.

Note: Surface Go doesn’t ship by default with a Pen or the Type Cover Keyboard which to me are what makes a Surface a Surface.

Without these promos the price for commercial organisations is around:

Model Typical Price (inc. VAT)
Surface Go 2: Pentium Gold/4G/64Gb (no extras) £379
Surface Go 2: M3 / 128Gb / 8Gb with Type Cover and Pen £790
Surface Go 2 LTE: M3 / 128Gb / 8Gb with Type Cover and Pen £895 

I know what you are thinking…. Apple iPad Pro right?

Well, to be honest, an 11-inch iPad Pro with 128Gb Storage, Apple’s new Smart Keyboard and Pencil is well over £1,250 (inc. VAT).

How Microsoft’s new digital skills initiative aims to skill up 25 million people

#Microsoft today, has launched an initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a #COVID19 economy grounded in three areas of activity:

(1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;

(2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;

(3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

Within the announcement, Microsoft said they are also developing a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees. This will bring together best in class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and a company’s own learning content and make it all available in a place where employees can easily learn in the flow of their work.

Read the full Microsoft blog and announcement here;

Cisco Live 2020: “To power an inclusive future for all”

The Cisco Live 2020 keynote yesterday (June 16 2020) followed the same theme as many of the other leading tech vendor events and focussed primarily on the current social and economic climate brought about by the global COVID19 pandemic before touches on new Cisco Webex and Cisco SecureX features which were the core focus of announcements on day 1.

Key Priorities Announced

“Possibilities” was the main theme of the keynote on Tuesday 16th June, in which Chuck Robbins summarised the current climate and demand on technology as the need to reimagine applications, secure data, transform traditional network and data centre infrastructure, and the “empowering” of teams through technology as being more important now than ever. which namely allowed Cisco to ire-introduce and emphasise some of the new core features coming to their Webex and SecureX platforms. 

Outside of this, most of the keynote didn’t focus on new announcements, but openly discussed the chaos that #Covid19 has thrown on the world nicely introducing the keynotes’ main theme – simple “Possibilities”. 

2020 has been a difficult and challenging year,”, “We started out with a new decade with hope, and we never imagined that in June we would have experienced what we’ve experienced this year.” Chuck Robbins, Cisco Live 2020

Chuck Robbins went on to talk about the combination of the COVID19 pandemic, and the fundamental change to business, employees and how we work, combined with the urgency, rapid change in direction and crazy tasks that every organisation has been faced with ensuring the technology, people and business can function from home which has of course been a challenge for many organisations globally. 

One of those big challenges included shifting office workers to a remote work style. This stark change, on top of all of the exterior issues, has taken a toll–both on the enterprise and individuals.” Chuck Robbins, Cisco Live 2020

Additions to Webex and SecureX

Javed Khan, VP of collaboration at Cisco, was next on the virtual stage joined by Gee Rittenhouse, senior VP at Cisco, to discuss some of the new features being added to their WebEx and SecureX platforms.

Webex 

With so many people working from home now and for the foreseeable future due to #COVID19, video and web conferencing use has skyrocketed across all major platforms, namely Zoom, Microsoft Teams and of course WebEx.

By April 2020, Cisco said they were seeing more than 25 billion meeting minutes a month (which was up nearly 3 fold  which is three times the size of the normal monthly average and said that “We have the unique opportunity to use our collaboration technology and our amazing people to help power an inclusive future for all.

We already know the future of Webex (currently in preview) will bring an enhanced experience leveraging what Cisco have called “Cognitive Collaboration” which will deliver insights about upcoming meetings, contacts as well as information about your day to reduce the need to keep flicking between Webex and Outlook.

NewWebEx
New WebEx Preview interface

 

Next, Javed Khan formerly announced the addition of the Webex Assistant, a personal digital assistant that can be used within the WebEx platform to enable handsfree operation and event in meeting administration WebEx meetings. With the Webex Assistant, users can “ask” Webex to record the meeting, take notes, and even send highlights to attendees when the meeting has finished. 

Picture of Cisco WebEx Assistant

Security built in was another focus of WebEx improvement, with extended data loss prevention (DLP) retention, Legal Hold tools for chat and content which is also coming to Webex Meetings. Cisco also announced an expansion to their end-to-end encryption including AES 256 Bit encryption with GCM mode for increased protection for meeting data and resistance against tampering. Security around meetings has of course been very top of mind for many whereby Zoom have had their reputation dented over claims and fears of poor security across their platform. 

Cisco also announced the Webex Desk Pro – an “AI powered” collaboration device that features a 27-inch 4K display, 71-degree HD camera and digital whiteboarding which looks like a cross between a Surface Studio and a Cisco EX device.

Picture of a Cisco WebEx Desk Pro

Cisco said that they would be “doubling down on AI” and that they would be adding even more intelligence into their contact centre solutions, converting customer support agents into “super agents” to ensure that they always have all the all the right information at their fingertips to allow them to solving customer issues faster than ever.  Javed Khan said that the goal of Cisco Contact Centre platform is to “improved customer satisfaction and improved customer loyalty.”

It’s also very apparent that Cisco are going to be dropping the “Webex Teams” name and moving to “Webex App” or simply back to just “Webex” as part of their next update integrations. I think this is a good move as to be honest, customers got confused when Webex Teams simply got Teams, which, let’s face it, every assumed they meant Microsoft Teams!

SecureX Update

From a security perspective, another huge focus for Cisco, Gee Rittenhouse talked about some of the new optimised features within SecureX, which he called 
“the most comprehensive cloud native platform in the industry.”

Gee Rittenhouse continued his explanation of the SecureX platform, stating that “In one place, you can see your entire environment, threats and incidents, and resolve policy changes.” 

Cisco SecureX dashboard

This was followed by a quick demo in which Cisco illustrated how Cisco SecureX customers could directly see all the possible security threats across their network through a single view/dashboard.  They demo showed a “kill chain” explorer view whereby, upon clicking on a particular detected threat, the system generated a relationship graph so that the SecOp team can see everything related to that single threat along the ability to then block it across the organisation with a just couple of clicks. There is also some automation behind this allowing some auto remediation as you’d expect. 

Cisco said they have a huge and growing number of integration partners, and are sharing intelligence and threat protection details with other leading security vendors including Microsoft, McAfee, and many others

Summary

As you’d expect from Cisco – huge focus on collaboration and security which right now is top of mind as many organisations get ready for a quite different future for the time-being at least.

What did you think? Did you attend the conference? What were your key takeaways and what did I miss?

 

Revamped alert page now live in Microsoft Defender ATP

Microsoft have released a completely redesigned alert page in the Microsoft Defender Security Center (which is now in public preview).

The new Microsoft Defender ATP alert page is designed to help security admins more effectively triage, investigate, and take effective actions on alerts. Microsoft say that the changes to the page were guided by customer feedback on how to make the experience better and as a result the new page constructs a detailed alert story with full context which will provides the following:

  • Improved focus – at the forefront so that analysts have less clicks to get to relevant insights.
  • An investigation-oriented approach – alerts related to the same execution tree will appear on the same page, increasing efficiency, and awareness to the investigation scope.
  • Easier to take actions – with necessary actions built into the workflow, doing what you need just became that much faster.
New Defender ATP alert page

To learn more about the new Microsoft Defender ATP alert page, see the Microsoft Defender ATP alert page documentation.

Microsoft “Authenticator app” now lets users change their passwords directly from the app

The Microsoft Authenticator app on Android has been updated and now lets users change security information and passwords right from within the app. This update also lets users view recent sign in activity, such as recent login attempts or changes to their account. This features update bring the android version upto date with the iOS version, which got this update back in May.

With the updated version, users can tap on the account name in the app which then opens a full-screen page for that account’s settings. Here it provides the one-time passcode for second-factor authentication, along with other options such as changing the password, updating security information, reviewing recent activity, and removing the account from authenticator should you wish.

These options are presented directly inside the app in a kind of in-line browser that lets users perform these actions without needing to switch to a browser or make these changes on the web. This works for corporate accounts as well as personal Microsoft accounts such as those with personal Microsoft 365 accounts.

Note: the account management options are not be available to Azure AD accounts as Microsoft want to empower IT admins to choose which options are made available to users from the Authenticator App.

Users can download the Microsoft Authenticator app for Android from the Google Play Store here.

Skype (consumer) gets 3×3 video support

Microsoft has started rolling out a new 3×3 video view for Skype video calls.

This updated feature now allows “desktop” users to see see the video feed of up to nine participants on their screens at any time. This needa Skype desktop version 8.60.0.76

This new feature comes just a few weeks after Microsoft rolled out the 3×3 grid view into Microsoft Teams.

This new feature is available now on Skype for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This feature is enabled by simply clicking the Switch View button and selecting either 3×3 Grid view, Grid view or Speaker view from the menu.

The 3×3 grid mode is a welcome feature addition for anyone working/collaborating from home and staying in touch with friends and family while spending more time at home.

Microsoft announces “Cloud for Healthcare” at #MSBuild2020

As Microsofts’ annual dev conference Build opened today (May 19 2020), Microsoft announced the launch of the Microsoft Cloud For Healthcare, — a new Microsoft Industry Cloud solution.

Microsoft said that the solution aims to integrate Microsoft Cloud with an “industry-specific data model” “cross-cloud connectors,” and APIs to better help serve the global healthcare industry.

Global capabilities uniting the healthcare industry

The Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare wi bring together capabilities from across many Microsoft Cloud Services 365. This includes Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and if course Azure. This will be powered by a common data model which will allow the sharing of data across various applications to provide better analytics. Microsoft say that this will allow health providers globally to provide better services for patients, clinicians and doctors by helping make it easier to deploy resources to the needs of all hospital and care units.

For example, Cloud for Healthcare, will focus on what Microsoft has identified as important needs for the field, like engaging patients, facilitating health team collaboration and improving operational efficiency, all with strict security measures.

Sample Health App powered services


Of course, an important component of healthcare is aftercare, where medical professionals need to keep in touch with their patients to follow up on their recovery and any post opp treatment, tools available to do so are generally limited to follow-up phone calls and emails, which are not only tedious but can sometimes not meet security standards or provide the best care.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Service will be available as part of this service, which Microsoft say is behind more than 1,500 instances of COVID-19-based bots that have gone live globally since March 2020. These bots can help alleviate the strain on emergency hotlines for public and provide health providers while addressing common questions that patients might have.

Availability

Microsoft has said that a public preview will be coming in coming days and will be free for 6 months for evaluation, with general availability bringing late this calendar year.

Microsoft has also said that although the healthcare industry will be “first served” with the solution, they also promised that more industry-specific clouds solutions will follow.

Thoughts..

What do you think.. Is industry specific Cloud solutions a good next step for Microsoft?

Surface EarBuds … so far love em

Last week Microsoft opened (after initially announcing back in November 2019) the availability of their new Surface EarBuds.

My Earbuds arrived today and I’m already really impressed (ok I love the Surface brand) – and I hope this blog will gives you a good summary and justifies why I’d recommend you go and grab a pair

Spoiler…. They work with any device, feature gesture controls not buttons, have fantastic battery life and work with any digital assistant…

Price

I managed to pick there up direct from the Microsoft Store for £179 including delivery (Microsoft are currently offering a discount of 10% for teachers, parents, NHS and armed forces)!

Look and Feel

Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds look quite big on first look (compared to say Apple’s) but I love the them.. They look very pretty “Surface”.

The charging case is sleek and protects them when not in use as well as keeping the charge topped up.

In Ear Feel

So they do look a little big when you first get them out the box and pop them in (I’m used to wearing Platronics 8200 headset so the buds are bigger than what I am used too). After 4 hours though, I had forgotten I was wearing them at all. – They fit really well but Microsoft also supply removable tips in three sizes: small, medium and large. The medium ones were fine for me.

Connectivity

Pairing is simple and can be done like pairing any other Bluetooth device but you can also use the new Surface Audio app which is available across all the 3 app stores.

Pairing is initiated using the pairing button on the bottom of the case and really is oneclick. If you are using the latest Windows10 built the Bluetooth quick pair works seemlessly.

As soon as mine were connected the Surface Audio app popped up and told me there was a firmware update to install which took about 5 mins.

Surface earpods firmware update

Sound Quality

OK, so 4 hours in… Good. Really good.. but a little more bass would have been nice..

With some random #spotify lockdown songs playing, sound was good. Immersive, good mix of bass, mids and treble (if fact bass was better than I expected), though a little bit more bass would have been nice..

Being on COVID-19 lockdown, I don’t get much background noise at the moment. It’s worth pointing out that Surface earbuds do not have active noise cancellation, but I found that because the Surface Earbuds fit snug into my ear I don’t imagine this will be too much of a problem.

The EarBuds have dual microphones per bud and seem to be really good at only picking up the sound you want them too (me). On a Teams call earlier today, my attendees said said they could hear me clearly.

Controls and gestures:

One of the coolest features of the Surface Earbuds is its extensive app integration (not just Cortana). With a triple tap, you can open Spotify and then you can tap or swipe to increase the volume, skip tracks or summon your preferred digital assistant with a 5 second press. These controls also work with other apps… Netflix, Disney Plus..etc

The smooth, flat surface of the Surface Earbuds has perfect senstivity, so even a light tap works. Once I had practices a few times my success rate of using gestures to perform tasks was almost 100%.

Personally, I love that Microsoft opted for gestures rather than buttons, which I think would have ruined the feel and pleasure in using these buds… No one likes pressing a large plastic gadget into ones ears!

Microsoft 365 Integration

Being Surface, these are supported by Microsoft 365 apps and can be used transcribe text in Word use live translation in PowerPoint as your present. You can also use these to read your emails in in Outlook on iOS and soon Android too.

That said… I can’t see anything that you can’t do with any other headsets….

Battery life

According to Microsoft, Surface Earbuds will last 8 hours on a charge, which is among the longest battery life of any wireless earbuds currently available.

The charging case also holds another 24 hours worth of charge, or three full charges.

Mine have been playing to themselves for 5 hrs so far and have just over 30% battery left.

Out and about (test drive)

No strange looks at least.. Certainly different from the apple pods but I really like them. Comfy and don’t feel like they will fall out anytime soon. Sound was good and battery lasted all day..

Me wearing my Surface earbuds

Summary

Couple of days in but love them. Some may criticise the larger pod design when compared to apple for example but it works really well and is needed for guesture control which is really nice and unique. These really feel premium and what I what expect from a device carry the Surface brand.

  • Intuitive gesture controls
  • Great feel in your ears
  • Crisp, sharp and loud sound
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Microsoft 365 integration. (but not unique to Surface devices)

Keen to know your experience..

Thanks for reading.

Rob

Microsoft’s Spring 2020 Surface Updates

Yesterday (May 6th 2020), Microsoft have announced their annual “spring updates” to the Microsoft Surface for Business line-up with new and updated devices and accessories to help your employees, teachers and front line worker, work, connect and learn anywhere, including:

  • Surface Book 3
  • Surface Go 2, and
  • Surface Dock 2.

Now more than ever with COVID-19, the way your teams work, connect, collaborate, and learn continues to change. As more people turn to their devices to get things done, it has never been more important to empower them with the best technology to help them succeed and retain their key talent – their staff.

The new Surface devices and accessories are available for pre order today

Surface Go 2 Image

Surface Go 2
Lightweight portability for the task at hand. Surface Go 2 has a bigger, 10.5” touchscreen display in the same compact size, up to 10 hours of battery life, and is
64% faster than Surface Go with the Intel® Core™ m3 Processor. Available with optional LTE/4G Advanced, the Surface Go 2 is a super lightweight 2-in1 with the full power of Windows 10.

Surafce Book 3

Surface Book 3
This is Microsoft’s most powerful Surface laptop which is up to 50% faster than Surface Book 2, pairing speed, graphics, up to 17.5 hours of battery life with the versatility of a high-performance robust laptop, powerful tablet, and portable design studio. For the first time, Surface Book 3 15” offers an option of NVIDIA Quadro RTX 3000 which has more graphics performance than the top of the line MacBook Pro 16”.

Getting the kind of power and performance needed to do complex modeling and graphics intensive work, with an Intel 10th generation CPU with up to 32GB RAM and 2TB professional-grade SSD.

 

SurfaceDock2

Surface Dock 2

Finally updated, the new Surface Dock 2 instantly transforms Surface into a desktop PC with all the next-gen ports you need, including USB-C®. Simply plug in the familiar Surface Connect cable to charge your device and access external monitors, a keyboard, mouse, and more. Surface Dock 2 was built to maximize efficiency at the office, in a flexible workspace, or at home.

Surface Dock 2 offers Enterprise grade features including frictionless firmware updates, Wake on LAN, network boot and centralised IT control over who can connect to docks and how.

Surface Headphones 2

Surface Headphones 2: The Smarter way to listen

New and in different colours, Surface headphones 2, allow you to listen and talk in comfort and style all day. Music and phone calls sound spectacular with enhanced Omnisonic sound now offering aptX™ codec support. . You can effortlessly rotate the on-ear dials to adjust the volume or noise cancellation and has 4 microphones per ear cup for exceptional voice clarity and also 20 hr battery.  Use touch to control your music, calls, and more. Now you can rotate the ear cups to 180 degrees for greater comfort when wearing around your neck. Now available in Matte Black.