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…

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.

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?

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.

PSTN dial-in for Microsoft Teams meetings is now free and unlimited for enterprise, business, frontline, and gov.

In addition to the recent price rises annouced last week to almost all Microsoft 365 plans (other than the highest E5 plans), Microsoft also annouced some good value news for users of Microsoft Teams.

And today, we are announcing that we will add unlimited dial-in capabilities for Microsoft Teams meetings across our enterprise, business, frontline, and government…

Jared Spataro, Corporate VP | Microsoft 365

What’s it currently cost?

At time of writing, Microsoft’s PSTN Audio Conferencing is included with Microsoft 365 E5 and Office 365 E5 (for free) but requires an add-on licence for all other licences such as E3 (the most common base licence across most organisations).

The PSTN audio conferencing licence (add on) is currently priced at circa £3pupm (about $4) and for enterprise customers on an Enterprise Agreement (EA), there is also an option to pay via Pay Per Minute billing.

What about dial-out conferencing?

In the official Microsoft blog, they refer to unlimited dial-in conferencing and do not specifically talk about any changes to dial-out conferencing where a meeting participant calls a user into a conference from a meeting rather than them dialing in.

Under the currently model, each licenced user gets a pooled 60 minutes per user per month that can be used to dial-out to non-premium numbers in any of the Zone A countries. More info on that here.

It’s not known (well I couldn’t find it) if this is also changing under the new plan.

Big value or not?

Microsoft has more than 300 million commercial paid seats, though less than 10% of these are E5 so adding this value to all Office/Microsoft 365 plans is of course welcomed value.

This, on the Surface is clearly good news and should potitivley impact a very large number of organisations (assuming they use Microsoft Teams for meetings of course) adding more value to the license they pay for (price rises aside of course).

The question remains of course, as in todays online world how many people still “dial in” to conferences and this of course limits the other mediums and media in a teams meetings such as video, content sharing/viewing and app Co authoring but is useful in situations where you are perhaps driving, travelling or in a area with no or poor Internet connectivity.

Source article

Read more here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2021/08/19/new-pricing-for-microsoft-365/

Welcome your thoughts or feedback. Is this a good move or not?

Latest updates to Microsoft Whiteboard bring new collaboration capabilities for Windows, Teams, iOS and Web.

Announced this week on the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, the latest version of Whiteboard is now rolling out to Microsoft Teams and Web users but is also coming soon for Windows and iOS. The new features are coming in 2 waves with the first set of updates coming now.

Rolling out now

This 1st new update brings new collaboration capabilities including new sticky note colours, highlighter colours, new content types, improved inking support and a few other features. There’s also a “read-only mode” for education.

More on the way…

In addition to these features, Microsoft is also agressively working on additional features (due late September), including laser pointer, collaborative cursors, customizable templates, better object alignment, and a new lick of pain for the overall UI which also promise to bring performance enhancements to the Whiteboard app performance in Teams and web clients. These were annouced at ignite earlier this year.

Microsoft 365 E5 becomes more “cost efficient” as non E5 SKUs get first price increase in years..

Microsoft’s have annouced the first ‘substantive’ price increase for many of its commercial Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscription plans is coming in March 2022.

On March 1, 2022, Microsoft will be increasing prices for most of its commercial Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions with the exception of consumer, education and also Microsoft 365 E5, which will not be increased.

The increases will range from $12 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 per user per year more for Microsoft 365 E3. In some cases, Microsoft is increasing prices to match those of the competition (read, Google), officials said. In other cases, it is adjusting prices to reflect the considerable value added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites over the past several years, they added.   

Microsoft have said in a blog post that since the introduction of Microsoft 365 four years ago, they has added 24 apps to their Office 365/Microsoft 365 suites, including Teams, Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, Stream, Planner, Visio, OneDrive, Yammer and Whiteboard as well as over 1,400 new features to its the core products across Microsoft 365 subscriptions over the past decade.

How much are the increases?

I’ve only seen the US$ pricing so far, but price increases range from $12 pupm for Microsoft 365 Business Basic, to $48 pupm for Microsoft 365 E3. In many cases the reason for these increases is to reflect the considerable amount of value added services added to the Office 365/Microsoft 365  over the past few years.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic up $1 to $6pupm

Microsoft 365 Business Premium up $2 to  $22 pupm

Office 365 E1 up $2 to $10 pupm

Office 365 E3 up $3to $23 pupm

Office 365 E5 up $3 to $38 pupm

Microsoft 365 E3 up $4 to $36 pupm

Microsoft 365 E5 No change at $57 pupm.

Microsoft 365 F SKUs – No change.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365 said “Microsoft believes the changes in prices may make the Microsoft 365 E5 SKU even more attractive” to customers”.

Take but give back..

Microsoft also said (more quietly) that that will be adding unlimited dial-in capabilities for Teams meetings across all its paid enterprise, business, frontline worker and government suites over the next few months (after offering free conferencing on a limited time for the last 12 months). This will help drive more people towards audio dial in (and presumably voice services) within Microsoft Teams and allows meeting participants to dial-in and join a Teams meeting from any device. Without needing the Teams client installed.

Read more….

For the official annoucement (US only at time of writing), read the official blog here.

Microsoft Teams will finally let users “swap” meeting content with the Gallery view

Microsoft Teams is getting a new much needed feature that will allow users to swap between shared content and the Gallery view during meetings.

Now in Public Preview, this new feature is (though I’m sure it was there once before) rolling out to users enrolled in the public preview channel using Windows 10 and macOS clients.

What does this new feature provide?

The new swap experience (supported in both large gallery & dynamic mode as well as Together Mode) finally means that users can now simply swap between any content being shared and on their chosen participant video feeds, bringing participant videos to the center and content like shared desktop/window, PowerPoint presentation or Whiteboard etc to the side or top.

Clicking on the shared content again brings the shared content back to the center of the meeting window. Gallery view and Together mode. Previously, the app used to disable the 49-person Large Gallery view in screen sharing mode, but this release lets users enable Large Gallery while sharing content or screen.

This may sound like a little thing… It is, but it’s been a niggle of many of my customers (and me once I discovered you actually couldn’t do…. I’m convinced I used to be able to).


A few bugs…

I’ve only tried this a few times in meetings as it “lit up” for me today and there a few bits that don’t quite work yet (which Microsoft do state in their blog).

In the preview version, Whiteboard content and PowerPoint Live presentations cannot be viewed in the swap state though I expect this will get sorted before it’s officially live for everyone.


If you have this preview feature, test out and make sure to file feedback via the Teams Feedback section in the app.

Microsoft adds SafeLinks protection to Teams

Microsoft 365 now has “Safe Links” protections across Microsoft Teams for any organisation that uses Microsoft Defender for Office 365 (formally Office 365 ATP).

Defender for Office 365

What is Safe Links?

Safe Links is a feature of Defender for Office 365 that scans URLs clicked by end users to check for malware and malicious or phishing sites in real time.

Safe Links was first introduced in 2015 (for just Exchange Online at the time) and was originally used to “detonate” links in e-mails to detect malicious payloads. Safe Links was subsequently added to Microsoft 365 applications, as well, such as PowerPoint and Word.

With the latest update and expansion across Microsoft 365, Safe Links now provides transparent, integrative and native intelligent protections against malicious links in conversations, group chats and channels chat across Microsoft Teams.

Enabling the feature

This can be configured in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. Detailed instructions can be found here

As with SafeLinks across the other Office services, admins can add exclusions and trusted sites if needed.