Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro and Basic

TL;DR

Microsoft has just launched Microsoft Teams Pro which is, in their words, “designed to provide an integrated experience and bridge the gap between physical and digital workspaces“. In short, the Teams Room Pro license combines the previous Microsoft Teams Standard and Microsoft Teams Rooms Premium licenses. There is also a new free license, Teams Room Basic – which provides limited Teams Room functionality.

As of Sept 1st, 2022, organisations can no longer purchase new Teams Room Standard or Teams Room Premium licenses – they need to buy Pro or use the “free” basic license.


Teams Room Pro vs Basic – What is the difference?

Teams Room Basic

Teams Room Basic license is really designed for small businesses (there’s a limit of twenty-five meeting rooms) and is £0 / FREE. It supports single screen and provides foundational Teams meeting experiences like scheduling and joining meetings as well as wireless content sharing but lacks many of the things that were included in Teams Room Standard. Teams Rooms Basic is included with the purchase of any certified Teams Rooms device at no additional cost, purchased on or after September 1, 2022. Customers can apply up to 25 Basic licenses to their tenant.

For small customers or those that just need basic book and join meetings, this provides a potential cost saving of ~£180 a year per room.

Teams Room Pro

For most organisations (and any that have over twenty-five rooms), Teams Pro is what organisations will want and need. With Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro, users will get to access all the existing Teams Rooms features they have been used to with Teams Room Standard, but they also get new innovations, and the Teams Rooms Managed Service platform. This costs $40 per room per month – about £30 and organisations can use this license (or purchase) with their Teams Room partner to provide a comprehensive Managed Meeting Room experience with the additional value-added service being provided by expert Teams Rooms Partners which includes Cisilion and several others.

Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro provides all the enhanced in-room meeting experiences such as intelligent audio and video, content capture, front row and large galleries, and multi-screen support as well as support for Teams Phone. The Teams Rooms Pro licenses also provides advanced management features like remote device management, auto-updates and patching, conditional access policies, and detailed device analytics, problem diagnosis and vendor hardware updates which is not included on Teams Room Basic. Teams Room Pro also allows IT to connect the Teams Room environment into their IT Service Management (ITSM) platforms like Service Now and Science Logic for example.

Microsoft would like to point customers to their partner pages for any organisation who is seeking additional help managing and supporting their meeting rooms, via partners like Cisilion who have strong technical expertise and deep customer success focus.

License and Feature Comparisons

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Max no. Licenses25Unlimited
CostFree$40 (~£30)
Microsoft Teams Licence✔️✔️
Audio Conferencing ✔️✔️
Whiteboard✔️✔️
Teams Phone✔️
Microsoft Intune✔️
Azure AD Premium P1✔️
AvailabilityWorldwideWorldwide
ProcurementWeb Direct or NCE via PartnerWeb Direct, NCE (via Partner), EA, EAS, CSP,

Feature Comparison – Meeting Join

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Join meetings with 1-touch, proximity, meeting ID✔️✔️
Start ad-hoc meetings from Teams Room✔️✔️
Direct Guest Join (Zoom & Webex)✔️✔️
Room check-in via Teams Panel✔️
Join meetings across Teams Cloud✔️

Feature Comparison – Engagement and Collaboration

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Share and view all Teams content types✔️✔️
Front Row✔️
Together Mode✔️
Large Gallery Support (up to 50 videos)✔️
Split Gallery (Dual Screen)✔️

Feature Comparison – Calling

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Make and receive peer to peer and group calls✔️✔️
Microsoft 365 Phone System (PSTN Calling)✔️

Feature Comparison – Intelligent audio and video

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Support for intelligent speakers with live
transcription and speaker identification
✔️
Multi-Camera Support✔️
Panoramic Room View✔️
AI noise suppression ✔️
People counting / occupancy✔️

Feature Comparison – Device Management

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Teams Admin Centre enrollment & inventory✔️✔️
Automatic software updates✔️✔️
Detailed system and configuration info✔️
Peripheral health management✔️
Remote configuration✔️
Device history and activity✔️
ITSM integration✔️
Custom health alerts✔️
Device and usage analytics✔️

Feature Comparison – Security & Compliance

Teams Room BasicTeams Room Pro
Secure Operating System✔️✔️
System Level Security✔️✔️
Azure AD conditional access policies✔️

I’ve already got licenses – what does this mean to me?

For most organisations, they will need to make the shift to Teams Room Pro at the end of their license term or reduce the license to Teams Room Basic if they feel they do not need any of the advanced features.

For customers who don’t have an enterprise agreement (usually a 3-year term), and that buy Web Direct (on a credit card) or via a CSP partner, you will no longer be able to buy new Microsoft Teams Rooms Standard or Premium licences; for all new rooms, you will have to use either Teams Room Basic or Pro licences. Once your existing licence term expires for your existing licences, you must make the shift to Teams Pro (or down grade to basic).

Whilst the cost increase will frustrate many users that buy Teams Room Standard today, the price for Teams Room Pro is still very much in line with how much, and the way in which the other providers like Zoom and Cisco also charge for their Room licenses. Microsoft have added a plethora of new features to Teams and Teams Room over the past few years and these price increases are there to support these and future enhancements.

Mix and match – it is also possible, if you wany/need to mix Pro and Basic licenses but bear in mind that the functionality will be different for the different rooms which users will find confusing especially if they use any of the advanced meeting features listed above. might be confusing. More importantly, the management and admin experience will also be different for the Rooms. Remember this is a tenant level limit of 25 Basic Rooms/devices.

Microsoft Documentation

Pricing Information: Microsoft Teams Room Basic and Pro

Support from Partners: Microsoft would like to point customers to their partner pages for any organisation who is seeking additional help managing and supporting their meeting rooms, via partners like Cisilion who have strong technical expertise and deep customer success focus.

Windows 11 22H2 Update is here. What’s new and changed.

Windows 11 version 22H2 is the next major update coming to Windows 11 was released yesterday (20th Sept 2022).

Can you believe that Windows 11 has been with us for almost a year? Since then, Microsoft has been continually working with Windows Insiders to add more polish and refinement that is now making their way into this latest update, as well as continuous enhancements and improvements based on feedback and media.

The initial release last year, was the major new release of Windows which built on the success of Windows 10, but with a major new Start menu, modern UI, enhancements to security, a brand-new, modern sounds and animations, and a bunch of new features all centred around enhancing the hybrid work and play experience.

As a Windows Insider, I’ve been using and testing the Windows 11 22H2 update for some time, and this blog aims to summarise the key changes and experience from my point of view.

TL;DR

There’s lots of polish, improvements and changes coming in this update, the key ones worthy of mention are listed below and discussed in more detail within this blog… Enjoy!

  • Start menu now has App Folders
  • Taskbar finally support Drag and Drop
  • Focus Assist integrates to Notification Center
  • Snap Assist gets snappier and smarter.
  • File Explorer gets Tabs
  • OneDrive gets more integrated with the OS
  • Touch enhancements and new gestures
  • New Task Manager app
  • New Video Editing / Authoring App
  • Enhanced Accessibility Features
  • Numerous UI improvements

Version 22H2 will be offered as a free update for all Windows 11 users and is part of the life cycle updates that we are used to with Windows.

Note: Windows 10 (which is supported and serviced until 2025), will also soon be getting its 22H2 update.

Start Menu Updates

With the first version of Windows 11, Microsoft introduced an innovative new design for the Start menu that had been rebuilt from the ground up with simplicity in mind. This was led with some criticism but has been generally well received and is a nice modern touch on what was an aging look and feel.

The biggest news with this update is that users can now create app folders. Creating app folders is simply and intuitive. By simply dragging one app icon over the other, then letting go, Windows will create the app folder, which can then be named re organised and moved around move the folder around in the pinned area of the Start menu. This helps a lot with making the Start menu feel less cluttered and is similar to what we are used too on android and iOS.

Taskbar and Action Centre

Unfortunately, no…. You still cannot move the taskbar from the bottom of the screen to the sides or the top. There has been lots of feedback around this as it’s been possible to move it in all previous versions of Windows. It looks like it’s staying at the bottom (at least for now). Remember you can move the alignment of the start button to the left though!

The biggest criticism filed in feedback hub around Windows11 has been about the Taskbar and the inability to be able to drag and drop files between apps using the Taskbar. This has been resolved and is back in Windows 11 22H2 which makes multitasking with the Taskbar far easier and restores functionality that was previously part of the Taskbar in previous versions of Windows…. Shame it’s taken a year to put it back!

The Action Center has also received a bunch of updates too, including the “focus assist” button, which has moved from Quick Settings into the Notification panel where it makes more sense. As part of the move, it’s also been renamed to “do not disturb.” which also makes more sense. Microsoft has also added a new “focus” timer under the calendar flyout.

The focus timer is now also paired with the Windows 11 Clock app, which can also synchronise with your Microsoft To-Do lists and to Spotify. In this latest update users can now start a do not disturb session (with music) straight from the notification center, whereas previously this had to be launched from the Clock app.

Finally, the Bluetooth action in the Quick Settings panel has been updated with the ability to view and manage Bluetooth devices without having to launch the Settings app first. This brings it in line with other Quick Setting actions like the Wi-Fi and accessibility toggles.

Snap Assist Updates

One the best new features that hit Windows 11 was Snap Assist, which provides a simple and intuitive way of aligning Windows across your display(s).

This update brings and additional way of initiating snap assist. With this update, and in addition to the drop-down snapping menu that appears when you hover a window at the top of the screen, and the ability to drag app windows to the far left or right of your screen, the 22H2 update adds a new “snap bar” menu that drops down from the top middle of your display when you grab an app window to move it.

Snap Assist in Windows 11


The snap bar “peeks” out at the top of your screen when you begin to move an app window (rather than having to take it all the way to the top) and allows you to drag your app window into any of the snapping layouts available.

As before, the number of snap grid options is based on the size and resolution of your display.

File Explorer

File Explorer has received a fair amount of attention in this 22H2 update.

First up, Tabs…. Yes, Microsoft is adding tabs to the File Explorer app, something that have been requested in feedback hub for ages. Just like a Web Browser, you can now open new tabs and switch between them directly from File Explorer without having to open multiple windows.

File Explorer – with Tabs in Windows 11 22H2

Next, there is a new “Home” page that is now shown by default when you open the File Explorer. The layout is still familiar but has some subtle differences such as a new “favourites” and “recent” area that appears below your quick-access folders.

The Home page give you the ability to pin files to the favorites area, which will keep them front and center for ease of access. Additionally, the recents area works similarly to the recommended feed in the Start menu and shows. A history of the most recent opened files. This can be turned off if you don’t want to use it.

Microsoft has also moved personal folders out from the “This PC” section – this now only shows storage and network drives. This means if you want to access your user folders, you need to go to the Home page or the sidebar. Whilst this was tested with Windows Insiders, I suspect some users will find this an odd change, but I guess it does make sense.

The sidebar interface in File Explorer has also been updated slightly. Microsoft have repositioned the Home page and OneDrive folders at the top of the side bar, followed by pinned and most used folders, “This PC” and “Network drives” are at the bottom of the side bar.

OneDrive has become even more integrated into File Explorer with 22H2. It is now possible to set your OneDrive directory as the default home page for File Explorer. This is useful as more people are using OneDrive over personal local storage. File Explorer also now includes a new sync activity indicator in the top right which shows available cloud storage as well as what files are syncing or have recently been synced.

Finally, there is an updated “open with” dialog design too which is more in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design. It works in the same way as the old one, just like looks like it was built for Windows 11.

Touch Enhancements

The Touch Experience has also been improved for users with touch-first devices like Surface Pro. Windows 11 removed the dedicated “tablet mode” interface that touch users were used to on Windows 10 last year and replaced it with enhancements to the desktop interface to make it easier to use with touch. With the 22H2 updat3, there are new gestures that enable access to common system areas such as the Start menu and Control Center with the swipe of a finger as well as new gestures for things like switching, closing, and snapping apps.

  • Start menu: Swipe up from the bottom middle of the screen.
  • All Apps: Swipe right in the Start menu.
  • Control Centre: Swipe up from the bottom right of the screen.
  • Switch between open apps: Three finger swipe left or right in the middle of the screen.
  • Task View: Three finger swipe up in the middle of the screen.
  • Minimise all apps: Three finger swipe down in the middle of the screen

New Native Apps

A number of the stock apps have also been updated and a major new one added.

Task Manager has been updated for the first time since Windows 8 and brings with it a brand-new design that brings it in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design language.

New Task Manager in Windows 11 22H2

The updated Task Manager introduces a new sidebar along the left which is home to all the different tabs that Task Manager has always featured. From here you can access system processes, performance, app history, start-up apps, users, details, and services tabs right from the hamburger menu.

Common actions such as “end task” and “run new task” have been moved to the top right corner, just below the window controls and Microsoft has also updates the graphs in the performance tab match your system accent colour.

Microsoft has also added two brand new apps with the also the 22H2 update.

Clipchamp is a new video editing tool that Microsoft acquired last year that is now a Stock Windows 11 app. The app is good IMO and provides good video editing tools. It is simple and intuitive to use to create videos, tutorials etc., for corporate, home, or social media. There’s is a paid tier and free tier, with the paid option offering many more stock video, music and animated effects as well as free cloud storage.

Clipchamp App in Windows 11 22H2

Secondly, the Family Safety (also available on iOS and Android) is now available as an app on Windows 11. This is a web app, which simply points to the online Microsoft Family Safety services where you can add family members, track their location, approve purchase requests, share Office subscriptions, and monitor usage and activity across all apps and services including Xbox games.

Enhanced Accessibility Features

Microsoft is now stranger to accessibility features across their products and services.

22H2 update brings live captions, which can be enabled on any content. The live captions work across all Windows and with any app and even works without an Internet connection.

Microsoft has added a new voice access feature that enables full control your Windows PC using just your voice and is powerful, simple to use and accurate (in my testing anyway).

When voice access is enabled, a narration bar appears along the top of the screen, which then let’s you use your voice to navigate all of Windows. Key commands such as “open Start” or “scroll Edge”, “Open Word”. You can also use your voice to move the cursor to specific points on the screen, type sentences into text boxes and much more.

Summary

In all a solid bunch of updates to mark the One Year Anniversary of Windows 11. For me there is still (as there was in Windows 10) many UI inconsistencies to work on, but Microsoft are getting there and the enhancements to Start Menu and Taskbar are very much welcomed.

If you have feedback on anything in Windows 11, then I encourage you to file your feedback in the Feedback Hub. The engineers and programme managers take the feedback seriously and it is reviewed and listened to. You can get to Feedback Hub, from Windows 11 by pressing 🪟and F.


If you like what you read, please subscribe to my blog to be notified each time I update or release a new one- NO SPAM EVER!

Microsoft launches Adoption Score to help businesses get the best from their Microsoft 365 investment.

Microsoft has released another analytics dashboard for the Microsoft 365 admin centre called Adoption Score. This latest AI driven insights dashboard is designed to assist IT and Customer Success Teams to ensure their employees are making the most from the core productivity and collaboration tools across Microsoft 365. Adoption Score replaces the  Productivity Score dashboard whilst adding a bunch of new features and controls that are designed to help enhance effectiveness and efficiency.

The anonymised metrics in Adoption Score help IT admins understand and optimize Microsoft 365 usage patterns in support of their digital transformation journey. The new name reflects the new product truth and provides clearer differentiation from other solutions that offer insights for business leaders and managers.

Microsoft.

Microsoft also indicated that they plan to add more functionality over time with the long term of aim of helping  IT (and / or their support partners or MSPs) ensure they are making the most out of their Microsoft 365 investment. Also included are lots of privacy controls to ensure organisations can adhere to their user-level privacy commitments which helps ensure it isn’t used as a spying or workplace surveillance tool.

Adoption Score shows how Microsoft 365 software gets used in an organisations and then offers “recommended actions” for more efficient use of those products. It also has a scoring service across eight categories that can be compared with similar sized organisations.

Microsoft 365 Adoption Score

Data is obtained and anonamises using Microsoft 365 application use data from activity across “Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Yammer and Skype.

Privacy

Microsoft claims that Adoption Score only shows “anonymised metrics.” The announcement stated that “Adoption Score is backed by Microsoft’s continued commitment to user-level privacy — meaning no one in a customer’s organisation can use Adoption Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365”, meaning you can’t identity individuals in the reports.

New Features

One of the new features is called “Time Trends” which will also soon be part of the Adoption Score Tool, which will help organisations better  understand historical data insights across the business and departments. This new “Time Trends will be added to each people experience category across Content Collaboration, Meetings, Teamwork, Mobility and Communication. Data will now be analysed from up to 180 days of historic data (but can be customised).

The tools will enable IT to better understand how a particular behaviour or insight, such as the response rate for new email responses, @mentions and Comms via Teams for example has evolved over the last 30, 90 or 180 days which enables IT or success mangers to understand the meaning behind the tends, helping them see whether they are close to achieving set goals for the adoption of modern comms tools (over just reply to all type email chains).

Availability

The Adoption Score tool is available now (rolling out) to all commercial Microsoft 365 subscriptions and can be accessed by Global admins (and then delayed as needed). On initial access, IT are required to approve both Adoption Score analytics and the people experiences category in order to access the Time trend data.

Viva Engage aims to improve company culture and human connector at work.

During Inspire 2022, Microsoft announced that they were intending to expand Microsoft Viva with a new Engage module. As of now, Viva Engage is generally available and rolling out.

What is Microsoft Viva

Viva Engage is the latest component of Microsoft’s Employee Experience platform, Viva. Viva brings together communications, knowledge, learning, sales, company goals, resources, and insights in the flow of work to foster a culture that empowers employees and teams to be their best from anywhere. It consists of Viva Insights, Viva Learning, Viva Topics, Viva Goals and now Viva Engage.

What is Viva Engage?

In short, Viva Engage is an Enterprise Social experience that allows employees to interact,  share news, ideas and stories as well as to develop relationships, establish internal connections, and at the same time provide an opportunity for people to learn from each other all from within Microsoft Teams,  helping to foster a better company culture

The purpose of Viva Engage is to “Connect everyone at your organisation through employee communities and conversations using Viva Engage, a Microsoft Teams app powered by Yammer“.

Viva Engage from Microsoft

Microsoft Viva Engage is not entirely new, but the name is! It is an modern version of the Yammer Communities app that’s been around for sometime.  It builds upon the social and communication capabilities of Yammer and Microsoft 365 apps and services, Viva Engage also beings new features and capabilities designed to make the experience more seamless than before. 

Viva Engage has a personalised Home page feature the brings users into a social landing page, where they can see news and posts from their connections. Like Facebook and Linked In for example, the feed learns and shows content that is most relevant based on machine learning and personal preferences.

Also within Viva Engage is a Communities Hub along with a list of recommended communities (if you are sed to using Yammer this will be familiar).

Viva Engage Stories

So what’s the connection between Viva Engage and Yammer?

Viva Engage is a new app, integrated in Teams, that surfaces existing and new employee experiences powered by Yammer services. Viva Engage delivers high-value employee experiences including community building, leadership engagement, knowledge sharing, and self-expression. The Viva Engage app integrates these experiences into Teams, and introduces new features including storyline and stories.

This means that for organisations that use Yammer today, these new Viva Engage features will also appear in Yammer web, desktop and mobile apps. So whether a user visits to Yammer.com, uses one of the popular Yammer mobile apps for iOS or Android, or experiences the Viva Engage app in Teams, they will see the same content and generally access effectively the same feature set.

New features coming too.

New to Viva Engage (and coming in the next few weeks) is the Storyline and Stories features, which have been built to enhance engagement among employees. With this, employees will be able to share their thoughts widely with colleagues through conversations and videos, similar to the experience in Instagram Stories.

The dedicated Storylines tab will get populated with content from colleagues but also features popular and trending posts from across the network. Employees can also use the ‘follow’ feature to follow other employees making simple to get updates and news from persons of interest.

Licensing and Costs

The new Viva Engage app, storyline and stories, are available to any organisation/user with a Yammer license, which is on by default for all Microsoft 365 commercial customers.

Conclusion

Viva Engage is not a new application, it is instead a partial re-brand of Yammer for Microsoft Teams with new modern features and deeper integration across Microsoft 365 apps and services.

Since Teams apps are the universal apps for the Microsoft 365 ecosystem Viva Engage will also replace the Yammer Communities app that is available for Outlook and Teams making Yammer more available from a variety of locations inside Microsoft 365.


To find out more about Viva Engage follow the link to Microsoft’s dedicated page.

Surface Headphones 2+ now Teams Certified without a dongle!

For users / owners of Surface Headphones 2+ (for Business), Microsoft are rolling out a new firmware update which enables the devices to be Microsoft Teams® certified using native Bluetooth® without a dongle.

Image (c) Microsoft

This means users of Surface Headphones 2+ will be able to depend on reliable connections during calls and interact with intuitive touch control with the convenience of not having to worry about the dongle – something which will improve productivity and ease of use for employees that (like me) often navigate different workspaces and devices for hybrid work and everyday life.

This is made possible by Microsoft leveraging the improvement in Bluetooth connectivity directly via the Surface companion app for Windows and Mac desktop clients.

Specific other vendor devices will, in the future, also get firmware updates to support native Bluetooth stack certification support.

Surface Headphones

For more information about Surface Headphones, you can check out the Microsoft product pages here.

Microsoft Viva Sales: Aims to provide seamless integration from any CRM into Office 365 and Teams.

With the annoucement the Viva Sales platform, Microsoft aims to help organisations harness the power of their existing CRM platform and seamless expose this within and across Microsoft Teams and Office 365 without third party apps, plug-ins, or data exchange tools. Microsoft’s goal is a native, common and familiar experience regardless of an organisations choice of CRM system.

Viva Sales will connect customer data across from any CRM into Teams and Office.
Image: (c) Microsoft

This approach is not unique to Microsoft. Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack last year was in part to enable them to ramp up their communications tools for sales teams. Microsoft, however, is not looking to compete directly with Salesforce or any specific CRM vendor. Microsoft’s goal here is more around “filling gaps” left behind by legacy and traditional CRM systems that done provides the “smarts” that systems like Salesforce and Dynamics 365 provide for example.

In the official announcement of Viva Sales, Microsoft said:

We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system, the difficulty is, a lot of what’s happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it’s just too tedious.”.

Jared Spataro | Corporate VP for Microsoft 365

What does Viva Sales do?

Due for release in Q4 2022, Viva Sales will allow sales and marketing teams to automatically synchronise data between any, and all, of their communications applications such as Microsoft Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system which does not have to be Dynamics 365 either. This is like the Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Slack integration, and what Microsoft have done natively with Dynamics 365 and Teams.

In their official blog, Microsoft describe Viva Sales as a intelligent service which enables sellers to capture insights from across Microsoft 365 and Teams, eliminate manual data entry, and receive AI-driven recommendations and reminders – while staying in the flow of work. Viva Sales promises to streamline the seller experience by surfacing the insights with the right context within tools people already use, without them needed to dip in and out of their CRM therefore saving time and ensuring that the CRM becomes part fo the core workflow without compromise on the productivity tools the teams use across the wider organisation.

Microsoft say that Viva Sales will work with any CRM to automate data entry and brings AI-powered intelligence to sellers in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

The key benefit for organisations using Viva Sales is that is that Viva is already (naturally) integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook which are used and adopted.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales however. What!!!?, Well, Microsoft has a much broader vision with Viva to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite and Teams. This strategy is demonstrated by the incredible reach and integration available through the Microsoft Graph – a major part of strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tools and more towards the type of workflow play displayed and respected by the likes of ServiceNow.

A Change of Approach

This approach is a strategic shift for Microsoft. In the past, Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy was to require their customers to choose their products such as Teams and Dynamics 365 over the say WebEx, Zoom and then Salesforce or HubSpot. With Viva Sales, this is now about choosing what products work for you and then leveraging the intelligence services through Viva and the Microsoft Graph to bridge them together and provide data intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together.”.

Microsoft

Microsoft have compared the enterprise software industry to that of a city, where it is built from the ground up. For example, If Azure, AWS and GCP are the city’s foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”

What do you think?

What do you think of the announcement? Is this a good move for Microsoft or are sellers better off just working in their native CRM?




Like what you read, why not subscribe?

Microsoft ends support for their once-dominant web browser Internet Explorer.

Today (June 15th 2022), what was once the “king of the web browsers” has officially retired after 27 years, marking the end of an era. As of now Internet Explorer is officially “end of life”.

Bill Gates and Microsoft Internet Explorer Logo
Bill Gates – Showcases Internet Explorer (c)

Microsoft Internet Explorer was released in 1995 and quickly became the dominant browser, almost instantly wiping out the previous dominant player Netscape. Internet Explorer was the dominant web-browser for more than a decade as it was bundled with the Windows operating system (similar to how Edge is today) that came pre-installed on billions of computers.

What does “End-of-life” mean?

In short, just that – it’s dead. Officially, “End of life” refers to the point in time when an application is no longer supported by the software company that makes it. In this case, Microsoft’s end of life for Internet Explorer means continued use of the browser after today is still allowed, but Microsoft will no longer update it, patch it or support it if something goes wrong.

This is important since new computer viruses, malware, and ransomware attacks are developed daily, and the web-browser is a major window into many of the apps that employees, customers, consumers use every day. Users should therefore stop using Internet Explorer use their modern Chromium-based Edge browser (or other 3rd party choice) since no more security updates will be provided by Microsoft as of now.

It has been a while coming

This has been a while coming, ever since Internet Explorer’s market share continued to be dominated by Google Chrome and others and Microsoft announced, and launched it’s new Edge Browser which built on the open source Chromium framework which Google uses within it’s Chrome browser.

Microsoft had already ended support for Internet Explorer for their Teams web app back in 2020, shortly followed by removing support across their other key web apps and services including OneDrive, Dynamnics, PowerApps, Outlook and Office from August 2021.

“Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10,”

Microsoft

Microsoft will continue to be supported in very few situations including with customers running the Windows 10 long term services branch (ltsb).

The Future is Edge

Microsoft Edge, was released in 2015 and was upgraded in 2019 to include the Chromium open-source code which Microsoft is now a major contributor along side Google and others. The move was done to compete with more popular browsers like Google Chrome, which has (and still does in part) dominated the market.

Microsoft Edge is a modern open-source browser and offers improved compatibility, streamlined productivity, and hugely better browser security.

As new apps and software products are released onto the market by other companies, old software versions can’t keep up. Microsoft Edge Chromium-based browser can now support a wider variety of platforms, which makes it more useful for the modern era. IE 11, in comparison, held limitations preventing it from updating alongside newer technologies.

What about legacy web apps and sites?

For older websites and services, Microsoft Edge provides a built-in “Internet Explorer mode”, making the use of using older web browsers like Internet Explorer unnecessary.

Microsoft recognise that many larger organisations “may have a surprisingly large set of legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and apps, built up over many years.” As such Microsoft have promised to support legacy web apps via it’s Internet Explorer mode until at least 2029, which gives web developers 8 full years to modernise their legacy apps and eventually remove the need for IE mode.

Legacy Support and Help is available

Users shifting from Internet Explorer to Edge can easily transition their passwords, favourite websites, and other browsing data from to Edge.

Microsoft recommends that any organisation that still has concerns or needs to support Internet Explorer (and therefore need legacy support) do the following.


Like what you read? Feel free to subscribe

Microsoft’s One Outlook is now available to preview for Office Insiders

The new (beta version) of the One Outlook experience is available to paying Microsoft 365 or Office 365 Business and Education customers enrolled on the Office Insiders Beta Channel.

One Outlook is a new “unified email experience”, which will bring together the various versions and experiences from across their platforms into a single unified and consistent experience. This means it will eventually replace the existing Win32 and UWP apps on Windows, Outlook Web Access, and the Apple macOS versions. Microsoft will also be using it to host their Outlook for Web on browsers.

Microsoft’s longer-term goal is to also to replace the built-in Windows 11 Mail & Calendar apps with this version of the client – but this is likely to be someway off, but Windows Insiders are hoping to be able to start testing it in coming week meaning it might make its way into an early 2023 build of Windows 11.

One Outlook takes most of its inspiration and design from the Outlook web version, matching it closely in terms of design, features, and functionality – though there are still more things to come.

“Today, we are taking our next step by sharing a preview of the new Outlook for Windows, designed to bring consistency across our Windows and web codebases to help you be more productive and stay in control of your inbox.”

Microsoft Office Insider Team

Main Differences and Features

The new Outlook is built well and runs super quick (old outlook was a bit heavy on resources). The UX has some really clean lines though out the design too – it looks modern and fresh, and the design overall is a much more minimalistic and feels less cluttered.

New One Outlook Beta Experience

This One Outlook also adds a few new things not found in the Win32 version including: –

  • New look and feel aligned to the Outlook on the Web experience which adds a single view for calendar, email, and to-do items
  • Message reminders which use “AI” to automatically remind users about missed messages that need attention – these reminders appear at the top of the inbox until the user dismisses them,
  • Microsoft Loop components (which was previously confined to just Teams chat)
  • @mention for files – providing the ability to more easily share files using the “@thenameofthefile” convention to more quickly attach files and documents saved in the cloud to email messages without having to browse for the files.
  • New Outlook RSVP feature designed for hybrid work. This allows users to RSVP but also clarify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online.

Let’s quickly cover Microsoft Loop…

So I love ‘loop compoents’. Why? Loop will IMO, soon transform (again) modern co-authoring and Collaboration. With Loop, rather than collaborating on a whole documents, you can edit/author in real time components like lists, tables, paragraphs etc.   With this now in Outlook, it should hopefully start to end the endless reply-to-all storms since loop compoents can be edited and changed in real time. I covered loop in a previous blog.

There are some important things missing for Enterprise

Firstly, of course, this is a preview, which means it is not the final version. This is only currently available on the Insiders Beta Channel and as such there are some features (some small and some big) key features missing. The key ones missing for me (which I think will reduce the number of users willing or able to test it) are:

  • Multi-account support
  • Offline / Cached Mode support.
  • Search Folders,
  • Quick Steps
  • Support for Personal accounts & third-party services (like Gmail) – but that’s coming

In addition, this beta release lacks some of the legacy Outlook extensions that many power users need in enterprise environments including older add-ins and COM object support. I suspect some of this is on purpose to get a better feel of what add-ins and extension organisations actually need and use.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Downs

  • The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
  • Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
  • Loop Components – these are awesome
  • @filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs up
👍 The new design (while missing some features) is really nice
👍Outlook RSVP (though expect to come to the “old” version too)
👍Support for Microsoft Loop Components – these are awesome
👍@filementions for easy sharing of cloud files

Thumbs Down
👎Menu layout freaks you out a little – and no file menu – this will put people off
👎No Offline use (yet), which in a hybrid world – almost makes it unusable for now

How to get it and test it

To get and test drive the new Outlook experience, your need to be enrolled in the Office Insider Beta builds, ensure you have a minimum Office beta build of 15225.20000 and then enable the “Try the New Outlook” toggle button.

Switching to the new One Outlook preview

Remember, as with anything new or different, user feedback is critical and as Office Insiders Microsoft are expecting feedback (good and bad from its testers). As such it is important (if you are an Office Insider) to provide constructive and useful feedback about things you like that you think are missing or that you love.


If you are a tester, want to shape it’s future (and you can) – go test it and feedback to Microsoft on your experience.

Viva Goals promises to bring ‘purpose and alignment’ to the employee experience

Microsoft Viva Goals has just been annouced and has entered a closed private preview. It will be included in the current Microsoft Viva suite subscription from Q3.

What will this bring?

Viva Goals is based heavily upon Microsoft’s 2021 aquisition Ally.io, who are a world leader in the realm of objectives and key results (OKR) platform which will find its way into Viva and gradually across the rest of Microsoft 365 and Teams. Viva Goals promises to help aligns teams to an organisation’s strategic priorities and will bring them together around an organisations’ company mission and purpose and values.

According to Microsoft’s latest work trend index report, more than half of all managers say they feel leadership is ‘out of touch’ with employee expectations around work life, hybrid work, and workload commitments. This new Viva Goals module is designed to address this by bringing purpose and alignment into Viva alongside the other core purposes the focus on culture and communications, wellbeing and engagement, growth and development, as well as knowledge and expertise.

Viva Goals (image (c) Microsoft

“Viva Goals brings business goals into the flow of everyday work, making it easier to stay up to date with connected data and automated reminders as well as to share OKRs and their progress across the organization with customized dashboards and quick links. It integrates with Microsoft Teams, Azure DevOps, etc.—and has more integrations to come with Microsoft Viva, Power BI, and other Microsoft 365 apps and services”.

Vetri Vellore |Corporate VP |Microsoft Viva Goals

Vellore states that (according to the work trend index report) 77% of employees say it’s important or very important for their employer to provide a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and 69% say its important or very important to be rewarded for impact instead of hours worked.

Want to see Viva Goals in action

Viva Goals is Private Preview, but to learn more about the wider Microsoft Viva suite, visit the Microsoft Viva website and check out the video below.

Viva Goals in action (YouTube)

New Office 365 updates to improve hybrid work experiences.

Microsoft announced a number of key new features to the core apps across Office 365 aimed to further improve the working from home and working hybrid scenarios, easier and more productive.

Whiteboard

The much loved Whiteboard app is getting a chunk of new features too, which includes 50 new templates, new collaboration cursors, and will finally support Whiteboard collaboration in Teams Meetings with external people (yay).

Teams

Teams is no stranger to regular updates; these new updates are centred around the hybrid Meeting Room Experience.

  • A new companion device experience will prompt you to turn on your video when you enter a room, and will hide your video from the front-of-room screen as well as from the gallery view of other people also joining from companion devices within in the room
  • A new front row meeting layout, will bring remote meeting members into a spevial “front row” at the bottom of the screen. This will also include additional meeting info including  chat, raised hands, and live reactions. Front row is now available in preview.

Outlook

Outlook will soon receive a new feature to meetings RSVPs, allowing you to indicate whether you’ll be attending the meeting in person or remotely to help meeting organisers plan and coordinate meetings effectively.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint is getting a big update (available in the Office Insider build today) designed to make remote and pre recorded sessions better.

PowerPoint cameo is an experience that brings your camera(s) directly into your PowerPoint presentation, and recording studio, which lets you easily record your  presentation and deliver it later “on demand” with your embedded video. With cameo, you can seamlessly create and produce your presentations, decide how and where you want your video to appear on your slides with cameo, and then record yourself speaking to any slide with recording studio.

Viva

Finally, the Viva Insight app within Teams will soon receive a new Inspiration library feature that will give “thought leadership” tips, advice and best practices from sources including Microsoft and the Harvard Business Review.

What was new to Teams and Webex in Feb 2022

Logo showing what is new to Teams and Webex in Feb 2022

Following on from a packed January of new features, the slew of updates and enhancements  to Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex isn’t slowing down. Here’s my pick of the new features for Feb 2022 across the two big collaboration, meetings and calling platforms.

Microsoft Teams

Like most of the platforms, focus in Feb would adding some love to existing features and enhancing others. Main ones include enhancing the hybrid meeting experience, big updates to Teams Room devices on Android and bringing intelligence and convenience settings to physical meetings with the new “knock knock features”.

General Updates and New Features

Mute Notifications in Meetings

Subtle but vital, it’s now possible to mute notifications during meetings, so you can better focus. In addition to this, you can also now see the user’s “local time” allowing you to be more considerate of your colleague’s/customers/partners availability. Finally, the last general feature to hit the general release is the ability to pin chat messages, change chat density, and also respond to group approvals requests within Teams Approvals.

Meeting Experiences

Companion.gif
New mobile meeting experiences on iOS

In line with what was already supported on Android, it’s now also possible to join a Teams meeting with a single tap on both your Apple iOS device and Microsoft Teams Rooms using the companion feature. With this feature on, audio on your device will be automatically turned off to ensure echo does not happen. The “landing” experience on your iOS device will be optimised for engagement activities to make it easier to raise a hand or react, chat, see all participants, and access Microsoft Whiteboard. In addition to simply joining a meeting, Microsoft have also made it easy to access meeting and device controls, which includes the ability to cast a PowerPoint, control room cameras and more.

Microsoft have also made it possible to pin to the meeting stage or hide your own video in meetings. This allows you to see your own video in the increased size on your screen or to hide your own video (for you) during a meetings. This is designed to reduce distractions during calls and meetings while still having your video available for other participants to see. This is done by clicking on the ellipsis (…) in your video feed and selecting Pin for me or Hide for me.

Pin or Hide Video.png

Word Cloud Poll – adds support for open-text question polls in Teams meetings.
When using polls in meetings, this new option is great for more open engagement with attendees, since it allows you to collect attendees’ open-ended responses before, during, or after a meeting, with the results being automatically aggregated and displayed as a word cloud.

Poll.png
“Word Cloud” Poll

Teams Walkie Talkie on Phones

Microsoft added the addition of Walkie Talkie function already available on mobile, to Teams phones devices which allows users to use instant push to talk to speak to colleagues or other departments. Walkie Talkie on Teams phone devices can only be used to communicate with colleagues that are part of the same Teams channel so think of it like a silo’d communications group. Walkie Talkie can be added to the App Set up Policy and assigned to Teams Phones devices from the Teams admin center.

New to Teams Devices

Teams Rooms, can now be configure to automatically release reserved conference rooms that are not being used. In addition there is also a new featured known as a “check-in knock-knock” notification on the Teams Room front room display, which will alert over-running meeting dwellers that their meeting is over and people are waiting to come into the room.

Microsoft also more added support for content sharing on Teams Rooms for Android, as well as increasing the number of video feeds displayed. HDMI ingest sharing, also makes it way to more Android Room devices as does far-end camera control for remote meeting attendees. Android Teams Room devices also now support adaptive dual screen display whereby the videos of remote participants span both screens (in meeting rooms with dual screens) when content is not being shared.

Dual Screen.png
Teams Rooms on Android
Ingest.png
HDMI Ingest on Android Rooms

Cisco Webex

Updated to Webex are also coming thick and fast and Feb 2022 is all focussed on innovations that make hybrid work even better. In Feb’s updates, these including voice optimisations for all voices, a new Webex App integration within HubSpot (which joins app integrations from Zoom and Teams), new Socio capabilities that aim to unify the physical and virtual event experiences. There’s also welcomed changes to Cisco’s flagship Room Panorama devices.

New “All voices” audio optimisation

Aimed to “give all meeting attendees an equal voice”, Webex has added “optimise for all voices” to their intelligent audio capability. This enhancement will allow users to be able to hear anyone in the meeting, no matter where they are in the room at the same volume level. For example, if there are a few people sitting away from the microphone, their voices will still be heard loud and clear by all remote meeting participants.

Realtime translation and transcription expanded with 13 new languages

Webex now makes it easier to create a more inclusive, collaborative and accessible experience in meetings and webinars with attendees from around the world, as well as those with hearing disabilities, with real-time translation. This month Webex have added 13 new spoken languages taking the total to over 100 caption languages in the Webex app.

Webex Live Captions and Translation

Redesigned Sildo “poll” experience

Cisco released a redesigned Slido experience in meetings to make it easier to create engaging real-time polls, quizzes, and also to host Q&As. Silo was integrated into Webex last year following an acquisition and provides a simple to use, adaptive and extensive experience.

Cisco Slido Polls in Webex

Webex Room Panorama

Aimed to bridge the gap between hyrid meeting experiences, Cisco Webex can now bring a full immersive experience with panoramic view to cloud registered Webex Room Panorama devices. Webex now supports up to 9 point-to-point calls with exceptional live video feed of far end participants, including control of remote meeting rooms, on the two 82” screens which make up the Panorama. Shared content is displayed on the 65” top screen.

Cisco Webex Room Panorama

Room Panorama features directional, stereo audio, intelligent table microphone array, HD content sharing to provide even more flexibility, better replicate in-person experiences, and to bring the full panoramic experience to boardrooms and executive meetings rooms.


Cisco becomes first SD-WAN vendor to leverage Microsoft Informed Networking Routing to optimise performance of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Cisco Cloud On-Ramp

Cisco has released an updated version of their SD-WAN software which now supports the optimal routing of Microsoft SaaS apps including Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams on their SD-WAN. Cisco’s Vipella SD-WAN solution is the first SD-WAN solution to be certified for this.

Note: At time of writing, this feature applies to Cisco’s Viptela SD-WAN solution and is not currently supported in the Cisco Meraki SD-WAN portfolio. This may change.

With this update to the Cloud OnRamp feature, Cisco SD-WAN “further integrates Cisco’s support for Microsoft’s Informed Network Routing technology that lets organisations share Microsoft 365 app feedback telemetry with networking vendors and to receive network link telemetry from them”, according to Jeevan Sharma, Manager, Product Management, Enterprise Cloud & SD-WAN group at Cisco in a blog about the enhancements.

Known as Cloud OnRamp for Microsoft 365, it uses “proactive and continuous link probing to assess the best performing path at any point in time. It also allows network admin to utilize Microsoft URL categories granularity for categorizing the Microsoft 365 apps into Optimize, Allow and Default categories, while active link probing makes sure that the best performing path is always selected”.

How it works

This latest update to Cisco’s SD-WAN software, which continually monitors and controls the connectivity, management, and services between data users (remote or office based) and cloud and data centre services, now includes support for more Microsoft SaaS applications specifically SharePoint (and OneDrive) and Microsoft Teams.

Cisco SD-WAN customers can leverage Cisco’s Cloud OnRamp to intelligently route Microsoft 365 traffic, to provide the fastest, most secure, and most reliable end-user experience. This is done by ensuring that all connectivity paths to Microsoft 365 from each WAN / Internet connection at the branch, office, regional hub and/or data center is monitored continuously for performance, and application traffic is then dynamically routed to the best-performing path without requiring human intervention. Cisco Cloud OnRamp also provides real-time and historical visibility into SaaS application performance.

“I am excited to announce that the integration between Cisco SD-WAN and Microsoft Informed Network Routing now includes support for Microsoft Teams and SharePoint app telemetry. This update will help us deliver an improved end-user experience through enhanced cloud connectivity. The partnership between Microsoft 365 and Cisco SD-WAN further enhances your Microsoft Teams and SharePoint experience by optimizing routing and path selection beyond traditional network telemetry probes”

Jeff Mealiffe | Principal Architect | Microsoft 365 Core Networking | Cisco

Microsoft and Cisco Partnership

Cisco SD-WAN is Microsoft Network Partner Program (NPP) certified and is also a Microsoft 365 networking partner. As part of this program, Cisco SD-WAN aligns with the Microsoft’s Connectivity Principles aimed at helping Microsoft 365 customers achieve optimal end-user experience.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN technology is available from leading network and vendors such as Cisco, Palo Alto etc, and typically include routers and switches or virtualised customer-premises equipment (vCPE). They run together using a connected software stack that handles things like policy, security, networking functions, and other management and security functions.

Cisco SD-WAN technology enables enterprises to build a scalable and carrier-neutral WAN infrastructure, allowing them to reduce WAN transport costs and network operational expenses. Cisco SD-WAN enables IT to apply business-centric, application-aware, and differentiated routing policies – providing end users at the remote offices, branch direct connectivity to performance-intensive trusted app, such as Microsoft 365, while routing generic Internet traffic via SWGs, CASBs, or the customer’s VPN connected data center.

New “Compact” Chat Mode coming to Microsoft Teams

The Microsoft Teams desktop app will soon be getting a new “Compact” Chat mode that will let you see 50% more messages on screen. Compact mode will only work on chat messages initially and wont apply to Channel messages.

Microsoft have said that this new Compact mode will start rolling out in the Teams desktop app this month and once it’s available, the option will appear in Settings > General > Chat Density where you will be able to choose between “Comfy” (the current experience) and “Compact.” as shown below.

New Chat Density Options in Microsoft Teams

Enabling the Compact Mode will reframe the message to show 50% more chat messages than the default/current view which Microsoft call “comfy”. This new setting can be enabled now for anyone in the “preview” channel for Microsoft Team and you can see the difference in the two images below.

Screenshot showing Compact Mode vs Comfy mode in Microsoft Teams
Compact Mode vs Comfy Mode

This will start rolling out to all users later this month (Feb 2022).

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).