Review: Lenovo ThinkSmart View for Microsoft Teams

Now, I don’t need to tell you just how fast #MicrosoftTeams is being adopted across organisations globally, but one thing we are seeing is the shire explosion of new form factor devices by leading (and new) manufacturers into the Teams Collaboration space. Some of these new devices fits into the new category of Microsoft Teams Displays.

Microsoft Teams Displays – are a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices featuring an ambient touchscreen, and a hands-free / touch-free experience “powered by Cortana” (though this is currently only available in the US only at this point). 

One of these vendors is Lenovo, who are no means a “new kid on the block” when it comes to end user devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktops, but they are kind of new in the Teams Collaboration Device Space. Interestingly, Lenovo are now also supplying the “PC” component of, not only their new Teams Rooms Systems, but also that of Poly!

Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View

The all new ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for conducting Microsoft Teams audio and video calls which can be managed by their ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.

Image of Lenovo ThinkSmart View

Designed and certified exclusively for Microsoft Teams, Lenovo calls this a “…collaborative smart device that works from an individual’s workspace…”  – it’s a collaboration device really designed for execs or those with a pop-up home office who want to be “free from their laptop or tablet” but still need a video rich and audio rich endpoint. 

Lenovo are attempting to “reimagine the personal workspace” with Microsoft Teams displays by integrating the Teams collaboration and communication experience into the home and workplace with high fidelity audio and video.

So, what can you use it for?

Meetings – and it’s really good at them too!

Most of what the device can do is set out by, and limited by what Microsoft allows the device to do since the collaboration device is powered by the Microsoft Teams Android client that runs on the device. 

Today (August 2020) the following features are supported:

  • Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
  • Live Captions / Subtitles
  • Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
  • Common Area Phone features
  • Hot Desking Support 

Coming “soon” – September 2020 

  • Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
  • Raise hand support
  • Support for navigating and interacting with Chat and Teams
  • Access and Share recent Files
  • Better Together for Calling & Meeting
  • Leaving a note in meeting

What’s in the box?

This is really simple.  The ThinkSmart View device and a plug.

What’s the Price?

The retail for these is £281 plus VAT – so I definitely put them into the affordable gadget category for most managers/exec that work at home or need a dedicated Teams Video endpoint in their office.

Lenovo are also offering a 45 day try-or-buy on this so speak to your partner about this if you are interested.

What’s the Spec?

As I said – think of this as a giant Teams Phone. Its runs the same native Teams Mobile app but is perfect as a Teams On-the-go collaboration device – as long as you have a power-plug to power it up as it doesn’t have a built in battery. With this device you get:

  • 5MP wide angle (720p) with a physical camera shutter to cover it for privacy.
  • Built in microphone with mute switch to temporarily cut the audio.
  • 1.75″ 10W full-range speaker
  • Bluetooth® 4.2 (LE) – pairing allows use with a headset and support auto device lock.
  • 8″ HD (1200 x 800) IPS touchscreen with auto rotate for landscape / portrait mode

Lenovo ThinkSmart View in portrait mode

Usage

The ThinkSmart View is an interesting form factor device from Lenovo. It’s not immediately clear as to its best use case, however…. 

This could fill the need for a dedicated video collab device that a user can walk up to and start using on the desk on in a breakout area / small meeting room and it does support the “hot desk mode” – the lack of a handset makes it a bit in practical for a common area but you can pair it with a headset (again – great to dedicated use, no so much for common area use).

I think for anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!

My opinion – ideally suited for the millennial executive / manager desk as a communication endpoint for Teams that can break you away from your PC/Laptop/Tablet or device.

Competition

This a new(ish) form factor, though not entirely unique to Lenovo. The other Teams Collaboration device manufacturer in this space today is Yealink. I’ve not yet had the pleasure of testing one of these so I can’t do a review or comparison of yet

Summary

As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent and at <£300 it’s a great device to buy a few of and see how users get on with them.

This is really nice and very simple to use device – it does Teams meetings as Microsoft intended – click join and enjoy!! The ThinkSmart View is excellent quality, looks great on the desk and works really well – what’s not to love for under £300 and if you need convincing (or need to convince others), there’s the try or buy offer too remember!

Click here to visit the Lenovo Website

Will I keep it/Buy it?

I’m not sure yet – but probably!!!!

I’m going to put it through its paces for a week or so as I’m only a day in so far and I really hope the new software updates make thier way to my loan device before the end of my two-week trial!

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

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

Key Priorities Announced

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

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

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

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

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

Additions to Webex and SecureX

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

Webex 

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

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

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

NewWebEx
New WebEx Preview interface

 

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

Picture of Cisco WebEx Assistant

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

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

Picture of a Cisco WebEx Desk Pro

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

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

SecureX Update

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

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

Cisco SecureX dashboard

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

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

Summary

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

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