Microsoft Surface Duo 2 “Hands on” Review

SurfaceDuo

Santa was kind this year and allowed me to get my hands on a Surface Duo 2. Before I drive into the formal review, I’d like to summarise by saying that Surface Duo 2, whilst very much similar and samey is much better and more refined better than the original Duo. Whilst a Dual Screen may not be for everyone, it’s different and is great once you to adapt to it.

IMO, having two screens available will (once you get used to it) leave you wondering how you ever made do with just one before. It’s a convenience and multitasking experience that once you get used to is hard to let go of.

The Duo certainly get’s attention and is simply an awesome blend of Surface and Android then this device is worth every penny or cent.

The original Surface Duo was released in 2020 and whilst a thing of beauty (it looked gorgeous, was pretty responsive and a real “wow piece”, it lacked (for most) some key things such as NFC, and decent cameras which stopped me for replacing my daily driver (a Samsung S20) for the Duo.

The Surface Duo 2

Surface Duo 2 is simply the most beautiful bit of mobile technology I have ever set eyes on. It is a work of art, the Picasso of devices, and you just want to touch it and use it. The original Duo only came in a white (Glacier) , but the Duo 2 adds another colour option of black (called Obsidian) which is also stunning.

As I said in the intro, having two screens available to you (once you get used to it) will leave you wondering how you ever made do with just one before. It’s a convenience and multitasking experience that once you get used to is hard to let go of.

Surface Duo 2 is simply the most beautiful bit of mobile technology I have ever set eyes on.

Under the hood, Microsoft have given us a flagship mobile chipset (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888), 2 beautiful screens, NFC, fast charging, the latest Bluetooth, 8GB of RAM and updated cameras (both on the front and in a new 3-camera cluster on the rear). There’s also a glance bar on the sides to see notifications. These hardware improvements have enabled me to use the Surface Duo 2 as my day-to-day device, which the original Duo fell short of.

Yes it is bigger than my “old” Samsung S20 Ultra, but it does feel ok in my pocket (now that my Surface Bumpers have arrived).  Unlike the original, the Surface Duo 2 arrived with Android 11 waiting to be installed which, combined with the updated guts makes it feel super fast and responsive with no noticeable lag. 

One week in and I haven’t experienced any major quirks, and my only annoyance is that the battery is still not as good as I would have hoped (more on that later) but then I have been using it (ok, showing it off) a lot and of course the Duo has to power two screens.

Design and Feel

The Surface Duo 2 feels more polished than the Surface Duo does. It still looks every bit Surface Duo, Microsoft have clearly listened to feedback and made a number of key refinements over the first generation.

Surface Duo 2 (left) vs Surface Duo (right)

One of the most noticeable changes (you can’t miss it), is the camera bump on the back of the device. Microsoft have added a powerful triple-lens camera setup (there was no rear camera in the original Duo), which means the cameras do protrude from the back of the device (like with most phones). This was a slight concern to me when I first started using the device, mainly because it’s so noticeable compared to the original Duo!  The cameras are surrounded with a tough plastic material, which extends beyond the glass back of the camera. This means that camera lenses are not in direct contact with the back of the left side of the device when it closes. Its does stick out though and you can’t help think “I hope I dont damage it”.

With Duo 2, Microsoft has also addressed one of the most annoying things about the original Duo which was that you had to open the device just to check the time or see if you had any notifications – a problem you don’t get with single screen phones. Surface Duo 2 has notification displays (called the Glance bar) that wraps around the edge of the device and are activated with a simple tap of the unlock button to show the time or a missed notification.

The Screen(s)

Like the original Surface Duo, the Duo 2’s selling point and USP is centred around the dual-screen design.

Two screens make every day tasks so much easier. Everything from reading an eBook across two screens feels more natural, whilst being on. Teams Call and making notes in OneNote on another is simple a fluid. Another great example is when you are reading and email or on a web page with links. With dual screens, clicking a link means these can open on the second screen to read later. As I have said a few times now, having two screens at your disposal massively changes the ways in which you can multitasking on your device.

The displays themselves are simply beautiful and clear. Like many other aspects of the Surface Duo 2, the screens have been upgraded too. The original Duo had two 5.6-inch AMOLED displays with a 1,350 x 1,800 resolution, which “combined” into an equivalent single 8.1 display with a 1,800 x 2,700 resolution.

With Surface Duo 2, there are two 5.8-inch displays, which open up to a “combined” 8.3 inch single screen. Each display gives 1,344 x 1,899, which with a combined resolution of 2,688 x 1,892.

Each display on the Duo 2 has a 90Hz refresh rate and up to 800 nits of brightness. Duo 2 can also deliver over 87% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut which is actually slightly better than the Surface Laptop Studio, a device designed specifically for art and graphics focussed tasks.

Gesture support for the Surface Duo 2 is unchanged from the original. This is good becuase it works well, allowing for example, for you to swipe up and drag towards the middle of the two displays to have an app span both screens. Additionally, most Microsoft apps (and a few third party ones), take full advantage of the dual displays on the Surface Duo. I find apps like Outlook most useful on a dual screen whereby you can have your email list and your current emails side by side which makes scanning through and responding to email much easier and similar to what you’d expect on a Windows/Mac desktop app.

Surface Duo 2 (left) vs Surface Duo (right)

Microsoft Teams is another app that leverages the full potential of the dual screen capability of the Surface Duo. With Teams on a Surface Duo, you can have chat open on one display, with your video call open on the other which makes the  mobile Teams experience much more aligned to how we tend to use apps and multitask in a Teams meeting. The Amazon Kindle app is good example of a non Microsoft app that has also been optimised for dual screen devices.

The launcher screen (which is the home screen  UI) even allows you to group and launch apps side by side as I have shown in the example below from my original Surface Duo device.

App grouping on Surface Duo

The hinge mechanism on the Surface Duo 2 is the same as on the original Duo. It’s slick and smooth with just enough resistance to prevent it opening by accident and once open, it stays open and in place.

The Camera(s)

When you are paying this kind of money for a flagship phone, you expect decent cameras, and this was one area the original Surface Duo fell short. Whilst I’d day that Surface Duo is not really aimed at the average iPhone or Samsung S series customer, if you are going to use it as your primary device (whether that is work, personal or both), you don’t want to have to carry a second camera around just to be able to take good photos.

The Surface Duo 2 has two cameras, a 12MP front facing camera, and a triple-lens camera on the back which encompasses a 12MP wide lens, a 12 MP telephoto lens and a 16MP Ultra-Wide angle lens.

The camera bump does mean, however that you can no longer fold the device back completely but it’s a small price to pay for awesome cameras.

The image below is one I took while visiting Kew Gardens in London over the Xmas break.

Image Captured With Surface Duo 2

If you’ve seen or used the original Duo, you will notice the photo quality is a huge improvement from the original and was one my biggest disappointments.

Specifications and Performance

With Surface Duo 2, Microsoft have put a decent flagship chipset inside. The original device, while  an innovative bit of technology, struggled IMO to grab the attention needed because the chipset components used weren’t at the specification the device or the price-tag commanded.

This time, Microsoft have got it right – and includes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, a leap ahead of the Snapdragon 855 which makes up the guts of the original model. RAM in the Surface Duo 2, has increased from 6GB to 8GB, but this is lower in comparison to what other vendors are heading for with their top end devices. Highend Samsung devices for example, now ship with 12GB.

Does it matter? Well, it may not be a RAM related  thing,  but I’ve read reviews from others seeing performance issues with Duo 2 where the phone gets “stuck” in a the camera app when taking lots of photos, or more precisely when switching from camera to another app and back again. I have not seen this myself yet but it’s something I’ll be on the look out for.

So far though, from my week of use, the Surface Duo 2 works and performs extremely well. I am comparing most of the day to day use with my previous daily device (the Samsung Galaxy S20) and it is at least on par with this, but far more fun to use. 

Battery Life

Like all mobile phone makers, battery life gets close attention, and the published numbers are never (in true day-to-day life) accurate.

Microsoft claim “up to 15.5 hours of video playback and 28 hours of talk time”, which definitely sounds impressive. Here’s how the Duo 2 performed for me over Christmas Day and Boxing day….

Though out these two days, I took lots of photos and videos of the kids, family and friends, did a fair bit of web browsing, WhatsApp messaging and general “showing off” of the device, and it did fall short of Microsoft’s claims but faired better than I actually thought it would…

The Surface Duo 2 lasted 11.5hrs before the battery got to the critical 10% level. I didn’t try it with single screen only (why would I), but in essence I’d say it performed about as well as my 1 year old Samsung S20. I think I will still need to bring a battery charger with me for a full day out (fortunately the Duo 2 does support fast charging).

Gaming…..

Another big use case of the Duo is gaming, after all this is a device made by the same company that built the Xbox and of course they have recently just released their Xbox Cloud Gaming service. With Surface Duo, You can play games using the second screen as a controller or you can stream console games using an Xbox controller.

Pricing

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 is available to buy (at time of writing) from £1,349 – which gets you the base/standard configuration with the Snapdragon 888 chipset, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. For another £150 you can get the 256GB version and there’s also a version with 512GB RAM if you really need that much!

Unlike the original device, Surface Duo 2 doesn’t come with the Bumper case that is designed to protect it from falls and knocks – the first thing I did was spend another £38 on one in an attempt to keep it looking new and shiny. Many may not see this as a big deal, as the sides of the Surface Duo 2 are a more rugged plastic this time but its an expensive device so the bumper is the least it deserves to keep it looking pretty.

Yes, Surface Duo 2 is an expensive device, but it’s more competitive with the phones around it. As an example, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 costs £1,599, which is slightly more expensive than the same spec Surface Duo 2.

Any annoyances?

Just a few…

  1. The Microsoft Launcher needs updating. It’s far out of date compared to the Standalone version you can run on any other android phone and other a couple of dual app launching shortcuts, lacks features of the standalone launcher.
  2. The size of the camera bump (mainly its noticeable since the device is so thin) is overwhelming at first but when you use it you soon forget how good the cameras are (especially compared to the Duo 1).
  3. Touch response is an issue at times on the Surface Duo 2 as it was on the original and an area of the software that Microsoft really needs to work on. Hopefully the upcoming Android 12 update and promised updates will address this.
  4. Apps optimised for dual screens are few and far between. It’s a shame that not nearly enough app developers take advantage of the capabilities and flexibility of using dual screen technology effectively. This is not limited to Surface Duo of course – there simply aren’t that many of these type of devices in the market today.

Would I recommend?

In short Yes

Being a Surface Fan and Windows MVP, I am always going to say yes!!! but in all honestly, the Surface Duo 2 is a truly unique and beautiful device that delivers a really solid solution for IT professionals, senior managers or tech enthusiasts.

Surface Duo 2 addresses all the short comings of the original and is a device that allows you to replace your daily driver.

Just like the Surface line up for business, Surface Duo 2 hits the professional market spot well. If you are an IT enthusiast, love the Surface Brand and want a device that stands out from the crowd, delivers a powerful and unique experience over the run-of-the-mill iPhone or Samsung devices out there then this a device that will not disappoint.

2022 will celebrate 10 years of Surface

2022 will see Microsoft celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Surface. The first device launching in October 2012 with the Surface RT followed shortly after by the Surface Pro (I still have a working one in my office somewhere too).

Microsoft Teams gets support for “Loop components

Teams Loop Components

Microsoft has rolled out an update for Microsoft Teams that brings the first set of “fluid” Loop Components. This has the ability to further innovate and disrupt the way people collaborate with their colleagues and perform daily tasks.

The update now introduces functionality from Microsoft Loop, a new set of fluid controls designed to further streamline the way people collaborate and cooperate on tasks in real-time. Loop brings about “portable components” that synchronise across the various aspects of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

As per this new blog post, “Loop components have now arrived for Microsoft Teams, unlocking a variety of opportunities to streamline workflows, as well as minimizing the number of apps workers are required to juggle“.

With Loop components, rather than share an entire document for co-authoring and collaboration through Office 365, users can instead post a specific paragraph, data table or list of actions into a Teams channel, where all members are able to view, edit and manipulate the content and see any changes and interaction in real-time. With Loop components, this content remains up-to-date wherever else the components have been deployed – which may be within a Loop page, Word document or PowerPoint presentation.

GIF showing Loop Components in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Loop Components within Microsoft Teams

What is Loop?

Loop was first unveiled at Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference in November, and is made up of three elements: components, pages and workspaces.

Loop workspaces are shared spaces that contain everything relevant to a specific project. Loop pages, meanwhile, are described as “flexible canvases” where users can organise their various loop components and draw in files, links or data.

At the announcement, Microsoft said that “For years, the established patterns of work were clear. Communication took place via email and content creation was mostly documents, spreadsheets and presentations,”

In the last 18 months, the world has changed, and we have adapted to a new working environment where people had to complement traditional communication tools and in-person collaboration with alternative solutions. But we need to go further. That is why we are reimagining Office, adding new apps to respond to new opportunities, and making Office a universal, interactive canvas.”

Loop components have the potential to change the way remote and hybrid workers collaborate with their teams, and colleagues in a significant way. Microsoft say that additional components are expected to be announced at Microsoft Build next year by both Microsoft and third party application providers which will provide more seamless and collaborative ways to collaborate across the apps and services.


I wrote a blog on the Loop announcement previously, which you can read here.

Microsoft Teams Phone System SLAs is now 99.99% and financially backed

Microsoft has updated the SLAs for Teams Calling Plans, Phone System, and PSTN Audio Conferencing to four nines / 99.99%.

This reflects the continuous work Microsoft are doing in the background to provide the very best quality, reliability, availability and calling experiences. Microsoft say in their blog that “while it’s natural to do a simple comparison of SLAs throughout the industry, there’s richer story about the new SLAs for Teams Phone that goes beyond the nines”.

SLA goes beyond just phone systen

The Microsoft Teams SLA is actually made up of multiple Microsoft Teams components which are defined separately in the SLA;

  • Microsoft Teams (the core service) that includes chat, calling, meetings etc.
  • Calling Plans, Phone System, auto attendant service and PSTN Audio Conferencing
  • Voice Quality (if impacted by Microsoft network and not your own LAN/WiFi)

In this update, Calling Plans, Phone System, and Audio Conferencing have risen from the previous 99.9% to 99.99%. Voice quality SLA remains at 99.9% (which is about 44 minutes a year) and in line with the core Microsoft 365 SLA.

Financially Backed

When any of these metrics fall below 99.99% in a given month, Microsoft calculates the total downtime and pay-out service credit based on length of incident (in minutes) multiplied by the number of users potentially impacted by the incident or outage and provide monthly service credit back at up to 100%.

Here’s how Microsoft calculates SLA’s for Teams Voice:

Note; This SLA does not cover outages caused by a failure of third-party software, equipment, or services not controlled by Microsoft, or Microsoft software not being run by Microsoft as part of the service (e.g. third-party PBX solutions integrated into Teams). This also excludes Carrier Connect services so its important to check the SLAs with your provider (if you have one).

Read the full SLA

https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/docs/view/Service-Level-Agreements-SLA-for-Online-Services?s=09

Microsoft sets it target on ChromeOS with Windows 11SE devices from just $249

Microsoft has launched a new edition of Windows 11 designed specifically for schools.

Windows 11 SE (built for education)

Windows 11 SE will ship exclusively on low-cost laptops that are built for the classroom which currently have good popularity with adoption of low cost Chromebooks, particuarly in the US.

It’s OK.. It’s not another Windows “S Mode”

Windows 11 SE has been designed for schools and is more akinned to the abandoned Windows 10X than it is Windows S Mode, which didn’t do well in education due to the limitations of only being able to install apps from the Microsoft Store.

Windows 11 SE will only be available on new low-cost devices and only for schools and education customers. As you’d expect, Windows 11 SE has been naturally, optimised for the core lifeblood Microsoft apps like Edge, Teams, Office, and their cloud-based services, but does allow use of any app including services and apps like Zoom, Google Chrome etc.

Windows 11 SE also supports third-party apps, including Zoom and Chrome, because we want to give schools the choice to use what works best for them,” says Paige Johnson, head of Microsoft’s education marketing.

Paige Johnson | Head of Microsoft Marketing Edu

Management and Apps

IT will be in control of what apps get installed by default and what can be installed and devices can be managed to silently update outside of schools hours. Device management and control is naturally provided by Microsoft Device Manager (formerly Intune).

Windows 11 SE doesn’t allow access to the  Microsoft Store, since it will be down to IT to decide which apps get installed on Windows 11 SE devices. Microsoft will share a list of all supported popular school apps (which I haven’t seen published as yet).

Refined with schools by students and teachers

Microsoft say that they have spent the past 18 months or so working with schools ( teachers and students and IT) to get feedback on what is needed for education. This input and feedback has led to some education specific features such as apps always launching in full screen as well as some of the more advanced layouts and desktop controls like Snap Layouts have also been disabled and replaced instead by a single mode that just let’s students organise apps side by side. Widgets are also off as these were seen distracting to students in testing.

Simple side by side view in Windows 11 SE
(C) Microsoft.

In order to try to convince more schools to use Microsoft Edge over Google Chrome, the option yo accept Chrome extensions will be on by default. Edge is built on chromium which means schools that use Chrome today will be able to continue to use their favourite Chrome extensions in Edge.

Leverages the Power of Microsoft 365

Windows 11 SE uses OneDrive as its default document store and also is configured with offline support to make it easier for students to use Windows 11 SE laptops offline or in areas of the school where they isn’t WiFi for example.

OneNote is also extremely popular and powerful tool and is also installed and configured by default. OneNote for education as some really powerful teacher and student co authoring and class book features so it makes sense that they are putting this in the default build.

Hardware Options

Windows 11 SE will only be available on dedicated low-cost laptops that are sold to schools or education institutions.

This week, Microsoft annouced the launch of its new Surface Laptop SE, which sets the baseline for Windows 11 SE powered devices.

Starting at just $249, the base model ships with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and an 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) screen.  Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, and other are also planning to launch Windows 11 SE laptops in the coming months.

You can read more about the Surface Laptop SE here.

Cisco’s new Enterprise Agreement is great for partners and customers

I feel I must congratulate Cisco on the annoucement of their new partner and customer centric Enterprise Agreement.

Simple and Inclusive

This looks and feels like one of the simplest yet powerful subscription based licensing programmes in the channel… at a time when “other” major vendors seem to be struggling to get a model right that is fair and offers value to both customer and partners regardless of size.

Consistent across their solution portfolio

When fully available in early 2022, Cisco will make their full portfolio of services available through a single agreement rather than the current multiple EAs with different terms, rules and portals they have today. Instead the EA will cover all five of Cisco’s solution areas – application infrastructure, networking infrastructure, collaboration, security and services.

Helps make it easy for customer to buy solutions across the stack

This new EA will dramatically simplify purchasing and selling as it creates one program and one experience for everything Cisco do and aligned to their product portfolio.

For example, Cisco has been beating the drum hard with the concept of “full stack observability”, which is growing in importance in this multi-cloud centric, highly mobile and hybrid world.

To make this a reality, customers, need to buy products across multiple technology and solution stacks, including services like AppDynamnics, ThousandEyes, Intersight etc., but this new should make it much easier for partners to sell and for customers to buy.

#cisco #collaboration #ciscopartner #security #partners #customers #subscription

Office.com is getting a huge AI powered overhaul

Microsoft are releasing a huge overhaul and new look for the Office.com (and the office app) experience.  This will make it even easier to find all the content associated with you and your teams, simplify and enhance the search experience and bring all your apps, tasks, templates and actions together in one place.

New Office.com experience

AI Overhaul

The main thing you notice first off is how much more simple and intuitive the Office.com pages now look.

Microsoft goal here has been to put you and your most important work at the forefront of the experience. The power of Microsoft 365 will anticipate which files (and people) are most important to your work at a given moment based on your habits and routines, the docs or projects you are working on, the activity happening within them and what you need to do to accomplish your work.

On the left pane, is a familiar navigation pane where users can quickly get to things like the new My Content page and Create Pages making it simple and easy to search for or create new content across Microsoft 365. As new fluid components like Loop (also annouced last week), these will also surface themselves here.

Home page updates includes new or overhauled sections around providing:

  • Recommended Actions
  • Quick Access
  • My Content
  • Creating content

Recommended Actions

Recommended actions analyse and bring together anything that needs (or may need) your attention or action. From here you can jump into your upcoming meeting, add (or complete) a To-Do or Planner task, reply to recent comments in documents, and see potential actions you have discussed in an email.

In addition to the Recommended Actions on the home page, you can also find content actions in line on any of the content lists within Office.com by clicking on the “triple dot” menu.

Quick Access

The Quick Access section let’s your easily collaborate on content by Sharing via Teams or booking time to review content with your team or manger. This section is all about helping you jump into and review content that’s important to you.  This content can be viewed as either a list or adaptive cards for a more visual layout depending on your preference.

Microsoft have made it really easy to filter this content by recently opened content, content you have shared with others, content around a particular topic, or person and group and even your favourite content.

My Content

Here you can view all your content and again view it by recently opened, shared, and favourites or custom filters to find what you need. As with quick access, you can leverage the powerful filters to quickly find the content you need.

As above, you can easily filter by type of document, activity and time and unlike most searches there no need to set a number of results as it the results like just adapts as you scroll.

The power and depth of search filters is very extensive and even contains specific filters like document you are @mentioned in or where an action was assigned.

You also have the ability to browse by People and Meetings. When you click on People for example you can view an easy to digest card view of people and documents that have been shared. When you click on Meetings, you can find all meeting content like recordings, shared documents or adaptive components, notes, and chat from your previous meetings.

Microsoft have also added some cool quick access tools, for example you can convert docs to PDF, Share docs straight into  Teams, Add things to your Calendar, and Add to To Do lists.

Creating content

This update makes it easier than ever to create new content across all the Office suite. As well as being able to create new blank documents, users can so create content using an extensive set of new tools and templates. Everything from surveys and brainstorming sessions, Power BI reporting dashboards, project plans and dynamic presentations. IT can also customise the templates to allow employees to have quick access to templates from your organisations  branded content by having all corporate templates in one place central place.

Availability and Release

At Ignite last week, Microsoft said this new experience would start rolling out in the coming  weeks to insiders and then targeted release channels before making its way to everyone BY January 2022.

You can watch a video from Ignite on the new experience here.

What is Microsoft Loop?

At Microsoft’s semi annual Ignite conference this week, they announced a new productivity tool designed to make it easier than ever for teams to think, plan and create together across each and every Microsoft 365 app and service.

Microsoft Loop

Loop is a new app that brings together a new extensible and flexible canvas with load of adaptive /fluid components that can be moved freely and stay in sync across all the Microsoft 365 apps and services. Loop has been born to help boost productivity across the hybrid workplace at a time most workspaces look set to be ever more distributed.

Microsoft Loop

Loop is actually made up of the following key components.

  • Loop components
  • Loop pages
  • Loop workspace
  • Loop App (coming later)

Loop components

These are essentially then version 2.0 of the “Fluid components” Microsoft have in apps like Teams and SharePoint today. These components will allow users to more easily collaborate and work together across chats, emails, meetings, files, documents or Loop pages. These components can be simple – like  lists, tables, notes and tasks or more complex – like records from Microsoft Dynamics 365. There are a bunch of new components coming too including things like Live voting, status trackers and progress reports and developers will be able to build and sell their own.

Loop Pages

These are the flexible canvases that users use to bring together and organise all of their Loop components as well as the space in which they pull in or link other useful stuff such as files, Web links and other data relevant to their loop topic. These pages are the collaborative space (think Microsoft Whiteboard and OneNote on steroids). Microsoft say that the Loop Pages are optimised to help teams think and work together but can also start small grow as ideas, projects and teams grow and change.

Loop Workspace

These are shared spaces that allow teams to see and group everything that is important to project or team. Workspaces are there to make it quick and easy for teams to catch up and see what everyone else in the team is working on as well as to react/comment and contribute to others members  ideas. These workspaces allow people to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously so work can get done whenever inspiration requires it and with whomever they are working with (or alone).

Availability

Microsoft say that some Loop components will start to roll out across Microsoft 365 apps such as Teams, Outlook and OneNote later this year but have also said that they will share more information about the availability of the Microsoft Loop app by early 2022.

Want to know more?

I don’t have any personal hands on experience of Loop as yet so adding a link to a hands-on video by a tech friend of mine Darrel.

First impressions by Darrel as a Service

You can see more of his reviews here: https://youtube.com/c/ModernWorkplaceChange

Cisco Webex will soon let employees connect their Webex Cloud Calling number to their mobile number.

Cisco has annouced a new upcoming enhancement to their Webex Calling platform that extends phone numbers natively to a employees mobile phone allowing them to use the phones keypad rather than the Webex mobile app.

You can read the official annoucement here. https://blog.webex.com/hybrid-work/next-gen-business-calling-built-for-hybrid-work/

Our innovations released today enable enterprises to be closer to their customers than ever, helping them deliver the best possible customer experience across all channels in real-time.

Jeetu Patel |General manager |Cisco Security & Collaboration

True Single Number Reach

Unlike traditional Single Number Reach service available in Cisco Call Manager and other Softphone services which essentially forward your call to a mobile, Webex Go, allows employees to connect over their mobile network (using their work number) while keeping their personal mobile number hidden. 

A step forward for communication Compliance?

CSOs and CCOs will most likley be interested by this annoucement since, as well as the convenience factor for employees, will help businesses ensure employees adhere by thier compliance and regulatory rules since they can ensure calls go via Webex and are then recorded and monitored for example.

Coming in H1 2022

Cisco said in the annoucement that Webex Go is expected to launch in the US in the first half of 2022, with other geo regions coming at somepoint  in the future.

What about similar services?

Vendors such as Avaya have had a similar function for a while and there are also a number of value added SIP and Mobile providers who offer value added service which provide a similar service.

One such provider (yes a bit of a call out here) is Teleware 365 and their Re:Call service.

Teleware 365 Re:Call Service

Re:Call enables employees to use their personal mobile phone to make and receive business calls, SMS, IM and group chat. This improves the employee experience as it removes the need for a business phone entirely, giving employees the ability to use their own device, the device they already know and love. Its also great in environments that need to adhere to strict communication compliance since it can ensure all calls are logged and recorded.

Hybrid Working in driving innovation

It’s good to see Cisco announcing that they will bringing native mobile extensibility directly (without the need for an app) right into Cisco Webex Calling next calendar year.

It’s pretty much accepted now that the future of work (for most) is hybrid and as such organisations are becoming increasingly focused on ensuring a seamless experience between remote working, the office and of course the experience, security and governance around using personal and work phones/numbers. The typical ask I see is.


• Removing the need for employees to carry two phones, one for personal use and one for business use. This is also good for Corporate Social Responsibility.

• Allowing employees to use their phone of choice without having to have IT control it.

• Allowing employees to separate business and personal use of the phone, providing confidentiality for business and personal data alike with full accountability and control.

• Allows employees to collaborate safely and securely with instant messaging and group chat.

I expect the other leading collaboration vendors like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to follow in the future and in the mean time, service providers like Teleware 365 can provide similar functionality regardless of what UC or voice solution you use.


Welcome your comments as always about this or anything in my blogs and thoughts…

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?