Microsoft is working on a new version of their Teams client that has been rebuilt from the ground up – according a report by Tom Waren over at The Verge. A preview of the new version should start rolling out in preview as soon as March and has been in internal testing with Microsoft for several months already.
Power to the users
Teams now has 280 million monthly active users, up from 270 million monthly active users in January 2022.
Microsoft are expected to initially allow businesses (who represent the core of its user base) to have the option over when to shift to the new version of the app to ensure there is time to fully test the app and update users on the changes to the UI, to ensure that the transition to the new Teams goes smoothly. This will likely be a combination of a global setting, preview users and user opt in.
Premium AI features will bring further enhancements
Microsoft is also working on enhances to the newly released Teams Premium and have all ready shared their plans to incorporate more AI features into Teams which includes features like, auto generated meeting notes, recommended tasks, and after meetin, personalised highlights.
Microsoft Teams Premium is a paid tier of Teams announced in October 2022 at the time of the Microsoft Ignite conference and is generally available from Feb 2023. (so now).
These additional capabilities (more info later) are focussed around:
Creating more personalised and intelligent meetings and webinars.
Improved and enhanced security protection for meetings
Advanced management and reporting capabilities for IT.
Advanced Virtual Appointments.
Deep AI analytical date provided through Open AI’s GPT 3.5
It costs around $10 pupm depending on your region, country and license agreement.
What are the differences?
Not to be confused with Teams Room Premium (now Teams Room Pro), Teams Premium is Teams add-on license that allows organisations that already have Teams with their Microsoft 365 subscriptions to further enhance their Teams experience with benefits such as more personalised and intelligent meetings, enhanced meeting protection, and advanced management deep AI and reporting capabilities.
Teams Premiums’ key features over the “standard” version included within Microsoft 365 can are summarised below. The data is taken from official Microsoft information, the source of which is here).
Teams Premium provides additional features for customizing meetings including enhanced templates, customisable themes, company backgrounds and custom together modes and analytics provided through GPT 3.5 open AI model
Host and attend Teams Meetings
Experience Teams’ standard look and feel
Use standard & custom meeting backgrounds at user level
Teams Premium provides an advanced webinar experience for organisers, presenters and attendees.
Require attendees to register
Assign a co-organiser
Limit the number of people who can register
Read live captions during meetings
Turn on Q&A for webinars with up to 1000 attendees
View attendance reports
Integrate with Dynamics 365
Set up a green room for webinar presenters
Manage attendees’ view
Send reminder emails to registrants
Create a webinar wait list
Manually approve registrants
Limit the day and time when people can register
Allow registered users to bypass the lobby
Use RTMP-In for Webinars (coming soon)
Meeting Protection / Security
Teams Premium provides additional ways to safeguard meetings with features such as sensitivity labels, meeting water marking and end to end encryption which includes video, chat and content.
Manage meeting lobbies
End-to-end encryption for one-to-one calls
Moderate meeting chats
Control who can present
Add watermarks to meetings
E2E encryption for meetings with up to 50 attendees
Control who can record
Prevent copy/paste in meeting chats
Assign Microsoft Purview Information Protection sensitivity labels for meetings [Requires Microsoft 365 E5]
Custom user policy packages
Turn on advanced meeting monitoring and alerting
View recordings of meetings
View meeting transcripts
View and use files added to meetings
View and use apps added to meetings
Navigate meeting recordings with autogenerated chapters (coming soon)
View time markers in meeting recordings when you joined or left a meeting (coming soon)
Search meeting transcripts with speaker suggestions (coming soon)
View and act on autogenerated tasks from meetings (coming soon)
View when you were @mentioned
With any Microsoft 365 license, users can use basic Virtual Appointments capabilities to schedule and join business-to-customer meetings. For example, users can schedule appointments in the Bookings calendar and external attendees can join through a browser without having to download Teams.
Teams Premium provides advanced Virtual Appointment capabilities, such as SMS notifications, custom waiting rooms, and analytics.
Access Virtual Appointments with the Bookings app for scheduling, appointment management, and email notifications
Integrate Virtual Appointments using APIs
Join appointments from a browser
Join appointments in Teams
Allow users to join a virtual lobby waiting room
Integrate with Microsoft Forms
Customize the lobby waiting room with themes and logos
Send SMS notifications
Chat back and forth with attendees in the lobby waiting room
Organizational and departmental analytics
View and manage scheduled appointments in the queue
View and manage on-demand appointments in the queue
Send post-appointment follow-ups (coming soon)
Who needs Teams Premium
Whilst not every organisation (or user within an organisation) may need Teams Premium.
Organisations can try Teams Premium by purchasing the zero-cost Teams Premium 30-day trial license available in the Microsoft 365 admin center.
Organisations with a Teams Premium trial license will have up to 25 licenses to assign to users. Those 25 users can experience and test Teams Premium features as they become available. Also, the admin can manage Teams Premium features for the 25 licensed users. The trail will last 30 days after which the premium features ill be disabled unless a paid license is purchased for the users that need / want them.
Most organization segments can purchase and use the Teams Premium trial license, excluding GCC High and DoD tenants.
Beware: “Some” Teams features will also move to Teams Premium
Microsoft have advised that with the general release of Teams Premium (in Feb 2023), some Teams features will in fact move from Teams licenses to Teams Premium licenses. To be fair these are mainly centered around advanced reporting, company branding and webinar premium features.
Features moving to Teams Premium are:
Live translated captions.
Timeline markers in Teams meeting recordings for when a user left or joined meetings.
Custom organisation settings: Together mode scenes.
Virtual Appointments: SMS notifications.
Virtual Appointments: Organizational analytics in the Teams admin center.
Virtual Appointments: Scheduled queue view.
Preparing for Teams Premium
To prepare your organisation for Teams Premium and to determine if, where and when it fits, the following are key IMO
Take advantage of the free (25 user) 1 month trail to ensure IT and your Client Success Teams can understand the user and admin features
Run a trial for key departments around the areas of most interest or value
Update or deliver end user training to ensure you get the value from the new features
Gather feedback from trial and live users to assess wider deployment
Keep your support team in the loop (so they can support your users with these new features)
Cisco’s Desk Camera 4K camera is small, powerful and full of AI features (if you use Cisco Webex) and is also now officially certified for Microsoft Teams.
Cisco is no stranger to making high quality audio and video devices for video conferencing on their Webex platform – but with their partnership with Microsoft around building devices “made” or “certified” for Microsoft Teams a bunch of premium devices now have another route to market.
I’m lucky to have both the new Cisco Desk Camera 4K and Cisco WS-720 series headset which has recently been certified for Teams and even has the Microsoft Teams “button” on the earcup. The Cisco Webex variant has a Webex button.
This is a review of the Cisco Desk Camera 4K.
Cisco Desk Camera 4K
The Cisco Desk Camera 4K, is a premium USB web camera for video conferencing, video streaming, and video recording. The camera provides up to 4K Ultra HD at 60 FFS video and features high-definition audio along with dual microphone for great audio pick-up on all your video meetings or streaming and is certified for Cisco Webex and also Microsoft Teams.
The HD camera comes with a range of features to make meetings from anywhere feel more professional and well-managed, including autofocus, low light management, and a custom field of view to suit your office demands. The system also works seamlessly with the Cisco Webex collaboration environment as well as now Microsoft Teams though there isn’t really anything it does in Teams that any high-quality webcam can’t do.
This is a high quality, premium device – features include:
4K Ultra HD camera quality (Windows Hello®️ Certified)
Two built-in microphones
Support for 30FFS and 60 FPS
13MP image sensor
Automatic focus adjustment
Adjustable field of view
Multiple pre-sets (controlled via Cisco Desk Camera App)
Built-in background noise reduction
Physical Privacy shutter
Digital zoom and correction controls
USB plug-and-play functionality
Clip mounting for easy setup
Cisco Webex Certified
Microsoft Teams Certified
Whilst certified for Webex and Microsoft Teams, the Desk Camera can of course be used with any video conferencing aps or streaming services and works nicely as on Xbox! The fast autofocus, face detection (where supported by the apps) and 10x digital zoom really help to enhance the video experience for your remote attendees.
Getting set up
To get started on Windows devices, set-up is as simple as plugging it via USB-C or USB-A with the supplied cables (Cisco provide both in the box for good measure).
The camera itself has an adjustable clip with a tripod screw thread offers mounting flexibility on a laptop, an external display, a tripod, or a desk stand in various open office spaces, huddle rooms, and home offices.
It is a shame there is no carry pouch for the camera though to stop it getting dirty or scratch when travelling.
To customise and configure the device beyond the factory standards, you need to install the Cisco Desk Camera app.
Install the Webex Desk Camera App
The Cisco Webex Desk Camera App provides a host of controls to change all aspects of the device as well as manage firmware updates, which mine was eager to update once connecting to the software. You don’t need to install it to use the camera, but it if you want to change the settings and manage the hardware then you need to!
Within the app it is possible to camera, image and microphone settings such as camera zoom levels (and pre-sets), field of view, auto focus settings and even framerate and resolution.
The Cisco Desk Camera app works with the camera and allows you to record videos, take snapshots, customise the camera settings, and upgrade the firmware.
Using Desk Camera 4K within Teams meetings
As expected, the quality and sharpness of both audio and video within Teams was good. to evaluate this of course I had to seek feedback from remote colleagues which was positive. By that, my video image was clear and sharp – even when sat across the other side of the room with the camera zoomed in. Even 3m away from the camera (which I wouldn’t do when working at home), video and audio pick up was good. It is nice to have such high-quality mics in a webcam – great if you have a more “budget” laptop without premium mics.
Despite the camera supporting 4K, most video meetings services (including Microsoft Teams) only support 1080p. To test the video quality, I move to the back of my office and zoomed the camera in (around 3m). The image quality was pretty good (seeing as this isn’t a room camera. Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams itself doesn’t currently have people tracking or auto-zoom so I had to manually zoom the camera using the Desk Camera app.
You can see the video quality at both close and zoomed in the images below from a Microsoft Teams call.
Using Desk Camera 4K within Webex
The Desk Camera 4K really comes to life in Cisco Webex. Webex provides full access to device controls and settings directly via the app (as well of course within the Camera app). Within Webex, you get access to various settings from within the app.
Cisco have ensured that managing an army of Cisco desk cameras is simple, with integrations with the Webex Control Hub which allows for easier remote management. Today, no such controls exist within the Microsoft Teams Admin console for managing Teams webcams – though I have not tried adding the camera to a Teams MTR to see what I can do here.
The Microsoft Teams client offers limited controls over camera features and settings other than the ability to change basic controls – for everything else, you need to use the Webex Desk Pro camera app.
Webex on the other hand, provides more controls for their intelligent hardware. It will be interesting to see if some of this makes its way into Microsoft Teams since a large part of the partnership between Cisco and Microsoft is also around sharing best practice across the leading eco systems. Cisco also allow you to access advanced camera controls directly from the Webex app meetings app – which is really useful.
Verdict: Why buy the Cisco Webex Desk Camera?
With the many different options available out there for professional webcams then the Cisco Desk Camera 4K is definitely one to consider. This is no is a state-of-the-art webcam solution created for business users (or serious vloggers) who want to ensure they have the best possible video quality in meetings or when streaming video. The Desk Camera 4K is really small and compact too so easy to mount on your home monitor or perch over your laptop lid if you need to. It also supports up to 60 frames per second.
As a USB powered device, this camera is ideal for hybrid work (if you have a cheaper laptop with poor webcam). Whilst certified for Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams, it can of course be used with video conferencing or streaming tool (as long as it’s supported by the OS).
The camera also supports Windows Hello®️ for business for passwordless and secure sign-on for Windows 10 and Windows 11.
When used with Cisco Webex, you also get access to smart AI enhancements such as facial recognition, tracking, auto adjustment, and more – so if you are a serious Webex user, this is definitely a webcam you want to test out.
The cost of real estate for business is the second largest recurring cost item (first is people) and can often be more than 20% of annual costs. Since even before the pandemic, though fueled hugely because of hybrid work practices, organisations are looking for ways to be smarter with this space and better understand, plan, and manage these expensive costs.
As we talk about ways to optimise cost within an organisation, we often think about cost optimisation with regards to cloud spend, consolidating vendors, smarter hiring and moving more power hungry, space consuming data centres to cloud.
Announced at this year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, Microsoft Places could be the redeeming feature large organisations need to help optimise their office real estate both now and for years to come.
What is Microsoft Places?
Hybrid work promises us the best of all worlds. The ease and comfort of working from home, the connection and energy of engaging with our coworkers in the office, and the flexibility and opportunity of working where we want. But today, there are still challenges preventing this promise from becoming a reality.
Microsoft Places is a new (coming in 2023) connected workplace platform that promises to deliver on the promise of blending the best of hybrid and in-person work. Microsoft places is a new platform (yes, platform not product), that will deliver solutions that help organisations coordinate where work happens, modernise the office with intelligent technology, and optimise the workplace for the continuing ever-changing needs.
I said before, Microsoft Places is not a product – it’s a suite of products and services which will slowly embed themselves across the wider Microsoft 365 services like Team and Outlook which is where people spend their time. In short this is all about making the office space are more responsive to everyone’s needs.
Microsoft Places, aims to intelligently leverage signals, data and building systems to provide a truly connected workspace experience, bringing the best employee experience, through a single, unified platform which builds upon the building and technology infrastructure to create an environment which can adapt to serve the unique and changing needs of hybrid work and allows leaders and facilities management to better plan and manage their real estate.
The key services will include:
Hybrid scheduling – which will leverage common data signals from Outlook and Teams to allow employees to view their week(s) ahead and see when co-workers and others you need to work or collaborate with are planning to be in the office.
Intelligent booking for meetings – will help employees discover available spaces with the right technology to match your meeting purpose and mix of in-person or remote participants. This will also feature recommendations for the shortest commute times, along with prompts that provide guidance on when to leave the office for next meeting and ensuring you don’t get booked back-to-back when you have in person meetings to travel to.
Wayfinding – will help employees quickly find the right meeting room, which is key for larger organisations with many locations, buildings, and rooms. Employees will be able to see live interactive maps from their mobile device that guides them to the to the right location.
Hot desk booking – will mean that employees can see choose where to sit and reserve desks or rooms accordingly. Updates to Microsoft Teams Rooms will bring more inclusive features for hybrid meetings such as auto-framing, content capture and more.
Meet-ups – will allow employees to easily create impromptu meetups and share with others in the office.
Insights and Data for Leaders
Since all this will leverage the wider Microsoft 365 suite and power of the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft Places will provide a plethora of data driven insights such as utilisation data, energy-saving opportunities, and occupancy trends to better manage the physical space.
This data will help leaders and facilities management make any necessary dynamic space adjustments on a particular day or week such as changing excess huddle rooms to overbooked collaboration rooms or converting meeting rooms into more hot desking areas.
This data will provide not only trends and usage data but will also allow organisations to better prepare, plan and optimise the real estate they have available and how it’s used to maximum potential. This may include reducing available floors on lighter foot fall days – saving energy expenditures and improving the workplace experience for everyone as well as working with managers and team leaders to better understand office trends around people, and spaces and places across their entire portfolio, creating more flexible, dynamic, and sustainable places that support new ways of working.
Working with Connected Spaces Partners
Since the building fabric, sensors and existing management platforms are critical to the success of a modern intelligent building, Microsoft have partnered with many industry and technology partners. This ecosystem of partners will build on top of the Microsoft Places platform with new and existing solutions, leveraging, and enhancing the rich data of the Microsoft Graph.
The list of partners (which will grow closer to release) include.
Cisco (coming soon with DNA Spaces)
Swift Connect and
Microsoft say that Places will enter preview in early 2023 with general availability later next year. Microsoft will release more information on this over the next couple of months.
Like similar clickers on the market, the Microsoft Presenter + can be used to control your PowerPoint and PowerPoint Live presentations.
The similarity ends here, however, as Presenter + is the first clicker that’s also Microsoft Teams certified, meaning it can also help you control and navigate your Teams meetings as well as providing control over your presentations when using PowerPoint Live from within Teams.
Microsoft say that “Presenter + reflects how work has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic“.
Presenter + costs ~£69 so is not the cheapest “clicker” but is the first designed to work with Teams and brings meeting controls into your hand.
In the Box
… Is the Presenter + device and a charging Dock plus the usual manuals etc. The Presenter + can also be charged directly with a USB type C cable meaning you can leave the charger plugged into your laptop safe knowing that should you need to you can top up the charge with any USB cable.
The back of the device has a simple on/off switch a Bluetooth pairing button.
Set up is easy.
Un-box the device and turn it on (there’s a switch on the back)
If not already installed, install the free Microsoft Assessory centre app from the Store
Head over to your Windows Bluetooth settings and pair the device. It also accepts pairing to multiple devices which is useful if you use a different device at home to when out and about, and even remembers any custom settings you apply to it.
Open the Microsoft Accessory Centre and follow the on-screen prompts to set-up the device and customise any of the settings you wish to.
Controls and Use
Microsoft Presenter + is not just a PowerPoint clicker.
In addition to the usual slide forward and back buttons, there is an also a giant Microsoft Teams button that allows you to quickly join Teams meetings and do things such as raise or lower you hand when in a meeting without reaching for your keyboard or mouse, giving a much more natural presenter experience. Microsoft also say that you can use Presenter+ with most other meeting apps, including Zoom, though I haven’t tested this yet.
Also on the device is a giant mute button, which can mute and unmute your microphone when in a call/meeting, and the remote nicely vibrates when your turn mute off, so that you know your audience can hear you talking.
You are also able to customise the left and right buttons to your individual needs using the Microsoft Accessory Centre app.
Another cool feature which sets this apart from other clicker remotes is that you can use Presenter + to grab and focus the audience’s attention with the screen pointer by pressing the middle 🔆button.
The is well built, presenter remote that makes Teams Meetings and Presenting within them simple and easy. I’ve only had the joy of using this in a couple of meetings so far and the true test will be how it enables me to true be hands free.
One thing I wish it had, would be the ability to spotlight text/highlight text when presenting or zoom in / focus to a section of the presentation. It might be possible to do this via a keyboard shortcut programmed into the device, but I haven’t found a way of doing that yet.
Don’t underestimate this announcement. This news is huge in the world of collaboration. Cisco and Microsoft have always been competitors in this space.
For years, customers have been asking for a simpler way to achieve interoperability between Cisco and Microsoft Teams Rooms. At Microsoft’s global tech conference, Ignite last week, their asks may have been answered, giving customers the option to run Microsoft Teams by default on Cisco Room and Desk devices.
Cisco acquired Webex back in 2007 for around $3.2 billion and used their leadership in unified comms to build out a world leading collaboration and conferencing platform. Webex competes with other collab giants including Zoom and of course, Microsoft Teams. This is not simply a “if you can’t beat em join em” thing though – there are some huge benefits to Cisco’s existing customers as well as to Microsoft and Cisco and their partners.
Cisco has been an innovative leader in the collaboration devices category for over two decades and their collaboration products have always been in high demand due to their design, reliability, and security. Cisco Devices for Microsoft Teams will help any organisation considering implementing Microsoft Teams Rooms or those looking to move from Cisco Webex Meetings and Meeting Rooms to Microsoft Teams as their default collaboration and meeting platform, since they will now be able to leverage much of their existing Cisco Devices in the process.
In short, Microsoft Teams certified devices from Cisco promise to unlock greater flexibility and improved experiences for business, IT and employees.
Why this is good for Customers
We see these three key advantages of this newly released partnership for existing and new Cisco customers:
1. Cost Efficiency and Choice
By retaining and re using the investment in Cisco Video Conferencing technology which powers their Webex Meeting experiences today, organisations moving to Microsoft Teams can achieve significant cost savings, not to mention time and effort, from not having to purchase, implement, fit out and deploy new devices.
Organisations that have already got an investment in Cisco Room Devices that will support Microsoft Teams Rooms, will receive a firmware update as part of the update schedule. Once deployed, IT will be able to factory reset the device and choose between the full Cisco RoomOS experience or tailor the software for Microsoft Teams Rooms.
This provides greater choice both now and in the future as organisations will be able to choose the primary meeting platform that meets the needs of their business without having to rip-and-replace the hardware.
Initially, six of Cisco’s most popular meeting room devices and peripherals will be certified for Microsoft Teams, with more are expected to come later in 2023. The initial wave of devices to be supported are:
2. Simplified and familiar management
One of the biggest headaches when moving to a different eco system and vendor is around how IT provisions, configures and manages meeting room devices.
Managing Teams Room devices is critical to scale. With the Cisco MTR solution, organisations will get all the benefits of Teams Admin Centre (subject to whether they are leveraging Teams Rooms Basic or Teams Rooms Pro) along with access to Cisco Control Hub. Control Hub is Cisco’s unified cloud device management platform with an analytics dashboard to elevate your workspace with environmental analytics and API integrations leveraging the wider Cisco ecosystem including DNA Spaces, your building management. systems and ITSM platform.
This provides consistency for organisations already invested in Cisco Devices who are familiar with Control Hub and a powerful, intuitive management interface for customers who are new to Cisco MTRs.
3. Streamlined, yet, familiar user experience
Since Cisco is baking interoperability into their room systems, it means that not only will users will benefit from a native Microsoft Teams Room experience on their Cisco Room Devices, including full access to the full range of collaborative tools such as PowerPoint Live, Teams Apps and Polls etc, but they will also be able to still natively join Webex meetings on Cisco devices that are enrolled into Control Hub.
With Cisco RoomOS powering Microsoft Teams Rooms, users will get access to all the intelligence features they have ben familiar with in Webex such as the Frames Camera Mode, which uses individual framing for participants to ensure everyone is seen equally in any meeting. They will also be able to take advantage of Cisco’s audio intelligence [aka noise cancelling] which blocks out unwanted audio distractions. The camera and audio intelligence features will be available through device settings via Room Navigator in case of non-touch devices and the right-side swipe menu on touch screen devices in and out of call.
Being able to continue to leverage these great features, will reduce platform learning curves as well as ensure organisations are leveraging the value and uniqueness of the Cisco Devices.
Why this is good news for Partners
For Partners, like Cisilion who specialise in both Cisco and Microsoft collaboration solutions and services, we have also been longing for this to happen for years.
We see many organisations unable to justify the expense of meeting room technology refresh and re-investment who “simply want to move their meeting and collaboration platform of chois to Microsoft Teams”.
This new partnership means that partners are now able to better serve the needs of their customers collaboration strategy, budget, deployment schedule and hardware preference. There is no doubt that Cisco has some of the best video conferencing devices and technology in the market today, coupled with their phenomenal global support and maintenance that Cisco partners have leveraged to provide the stability and uptime guarantees that their global customers expect and demand.
Why this is great news for Microsoft
Partnership is two way of course.
Cisco is a world leader in video conferencing and meeting room technology. The majority of their Webex room kit includes a wealth of clever AI powered tech such as speaker tracking, noise cancelling, occupancy sensors, environmental monitoring and integrated digitial signage technology as well being the only vendor that creates truly immersive panoramic meeting experiences such as the Cisco Panorama.
In the past, Cisco, Microsoft and Zoom have all collaborated jointly on developing a native video interop technology which uses Web RTC technology, called Direct Guest Join. This, while useful, is really around bringing better inter company collaboration than actually allowing organisations to run Teams as their preferred meeting technology and is limited in functionality.
Customers seem to be wanted to work with their choice of a communications platform of their choice. With the small (and arguably shrinking market share), Cisco are loosing out on revenue and market share in the hardware space by only supporting their native platform. Partnering with Microsoft seems therefore a sensible move and allows them to retain their quality brand and footprint I the enterprise that has been “forced” to invest in other AV vendors in order to deliver against their collaboration strategy with a Microsoft Teams.
Cisco and Microsoft’s new partnership will enable Microsoft to work. Collaboratively with Cisco (rather than compete) and bring a new class of innovation into Teams Rooms by borrowing some of Cisco’s smarts.
We understand that Cisco are already be working with Microsoft to integrate their DNA spaces services into the newly announced Microsoft Places bringing intelligence and analytics on how meeting spaces are used. This forms a major part of Cisco’s Smart Buildings initiative.
Wait – I have loads of Questions…
That’s ok – the news is still hot of the press. Cisco are running a number of partner and customer webinars and sessions over the next month or so.
We have collated the most common and obvious questions and attempted to answer them here:
1. What does this for the future of Webex?
Webex is a great product and trusted by many FTSE 100 organisations, but the market has shifted and is still shifting rapidly which Cisco clearly recognises.
Whilst we don’t have firm figures for market share from Cisco directly, a 2021 report estimated that Zoom had a 46 percent share (though was very consumer skewed), Microsoft a 54 percent share and Webex market share of meetings was around 7 percent.
That said, Cisco does has a strong install base of Cisco Webex, which they will continue to support and develop. Their devices will now be designed to support both Cisco and Mcirosoft Teams meeting platforms. They are committed to continuing to deliver the best user experience with Webex and will continue to invest in developments that optimise the Webex experience when running on Cisco devices.
Cisco have also said that they will provide Webex Meetings free as a ‘backup to Teams’ for customers using their devices as Mcirosoft MTRs.
2. What Cisco devices will not be supported?
Cisco Room Kit and Room Kit Plus will not be supported on Microsoft Teams since these run on hardware platforms that are currently unable to support Microsoft Teams Rooms. Cisco Desk and Cisco Desk Mini are also currently unable to run as Mcirosoft Teams devices due to hardware platforms that are unable to support native Microsoft Teams Display mode.
As such organisations can of choose from the range of non-Cisco Teams Room Certified devices from other vendors such as Yealink, Poly, Logitech or Neat.
Cisco recommend that their customers with medium sized room look to upgrade / invest in the Cisco Board Pro, which in addition to being an interactive collaboration device works, can also serve as an all-in-one meeting room system when paired with a Cisco Room Navigator.
3. How will this effect Zoom, and Microsoft Video Interop?
This will not change the either the in which third party (incuding Cisco, Pexip or Poly) Cloud Video Interop (CVI) work or the way in which the Web RTC based Direct Guest Join services work between the three VC platforms.
Cisco have said that they will continue to work with Zoom, Google, and Microsoft to enhance these meeting experiences. Both Microsoft and Cisco are also committed to continue to enhance our respective WebRTC based guest join experiences. This announcement means that in addition to the above, their devices can now be configured as Microsoft Teams Rooms devices – meaning they can deliver a native Teams user experience.
4. How do we license the Cisco Devices for Teams Rooms
Microsoft Teams Rooms licenses must be purchased directly from your Microsoft CSP Partner or from Microsoft as part of your Enterprise Agreement . For more information, see the core Teams Room Basic and Teams Room Pro pricing information.
5. Do we still need a Cisco Webex license for the device?
No – but Cisco strongly recommend that organisations buy the Webex Suite to ensure they can leverage the full value of running MTR on a Cisco Device. This is because customers who do not purchase a Webex Suite, will only be able to access Webex meetings via direct guest join, and will not be able to take advantage of the advanced management and workspace analytic capabilities of Control Hub.
6. How will Cisco differentiate their MTRS against the other MTRs?
Cisco’s approach here is that their existing (and new) customers will get to experience the best of breed audio and video intelligence features that have previously only been available to customers using RoomOS and Webex Meetings.
Cisco customers that have bought any part of the Webex Suite will get access to Cisco Control Hub device management and fully featured Webex meetings within Microsoft Teams Rooms.
Want to know more?
With the digital ink still drying on the announcement, Cisilion are here to help our customers think (or re-think) and plan about how this may impact their meetings space, remote work and collaboration roadmaps.
Speak with Cisilion today to find out more about your interoperability journey from Cisco Webex to Microsoft Teams or how to achieve seemless interoperability between the two platforms.
Cisco are also hosting a customer webinar on November 8th – which can be registered for at https://cs.co/MTR
Collaborative Annotations is another enhancement coming to Teams. Powered by Microsoft Whiteboard, collaborative annotations is designed to further simply the ability to collaborate with others while screen sharing in a Microsoft Teams meetings.
Thus feature brings a new dimension to screen sharing as it allows participants to collaborate on anything by essentially leveraging a whiteboard overlay to anything being shared. This is useful if you want to ask for feedback or input on a design, diagram or any other document in a one2one or when working with a group.
Using the new feature is simple and intuitive. From within a Teams meeting, there’s a new button located in the meeting controls at the top-center of their screen.
Using Collaborative Annotations
While you’re sharing your full screen in a meeting, select Start annotation Microsoft Teams annotation icon in the meeting controls at the upper-middle area of your screen.
The red outline around the shared screen will turn blue and all participants will see the Microsoft Whiteboard toolset at the top of the shared screen. Everyone in the meeting can begin annotating right away, and the red pen tool is selected by default.
To begin annotating, you can simply choose one of the tools in the Whiteboard toolset such as Sticky note and start typing or drawing on the screen.
To use this feature, you must have a presenter role in the meeting.
By default, everyone can annotate. Collaborative cursors also show the names of every participant in the meeting by default. These settings can be toggled on or off by anyone in the meeting by selection settings and toggling the options as shown below.
There are a few limitations though expect these to be fewer as the new feature develops. Most notably these are:
Collaborative Annotation is only available for full-screen sharing, not individual window sharing.
Exporting annotations is not currently supported. Microsoft recommend that you can take screenshots during the meeting
Meeting rooms using Android-based devices are not currently supported.
This new feature is currently in public preview and is expected to gradually roll out towards the end of this week.
In what could be good news for Business and VC/Collab partners alike, organisations will soon be able to choose between running Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams natively on their Cisco Meeting devices and cameras starting in 2023.
Both Cisco Cisco Room and Cisco Desk Devices, will be certified for Microsoft Teams, a move annouced a few years ago and then back tracked by Cisco but now clearly front and centre.
What might Cisco bring to the Teams Eco System
Cisco becoming a partner in the Certified for Microsoft Teams program for the first time is a big move for Cisco. The Teams Room eco system is already quite crowded with vendors including Yealink, Poly, Logitech, Neat to name a few.
The quality of Cisco kit often dwafs that of the other vendors out there, ever since their aquisition of Tanburg back in 2010.
Under the terms of the partnership, Microsoft Teams will run natively on Cisco Room and Desk devices starting from the first half of 2023, giving users the option of staying within the Teams experience while taking advantage of Cisco’s video and camera technology, complete with noise removal and built-in intelligence.
What devices will be supported?
In the blog, Microsoft and Cisco say that “Initially, six of Cisco’s most popular meeting devices and three peripherals will be certified for Teams, with more to come.
The first wave of devices, expected to be certified by early 2023, will include the Cisco Room Bar, the Cisco Board Pro 55-inch and 75-inch, and the Cisco Room Kit Pro for small, medium and large meeting room spaces, respectively. Cisco Desk Pro and Cisco Room Navigator will follow.
This is great for customers who want to shift eco systems without having to replace their vast array of meeting room technology where this meets the requirements of course to become Teams Native.
Is the end of Webex?
According to Cisco,Absolutely not..
This is all about choice and recognition of the growth and impact of Teams. Cisco customers will have the option to make Microsoft Teams Rooms the default experiences, and the devices will continue to support joining Webex meetings with all the features and functionality customers enjoy today via interop capabilites.
This move also helps customers and partners better meet their sustainability goals and budgets meaning that they can retain the value, quality and brand of Cisco they like in a Teams Native experience without compromise.
What do you think of this news? Share you comments in below.
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 Basic
Teams Room Pro
Max no. Licenses
Microsoft Teams Licence
Azure AD Premium P1
Web Direct or NCE via Partner
Web Direct, NCE (via Partner), EA, EAS, CSP,
Feature Comparison – Meeting Join
Teams Room Basic
Teams 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 Basic
Teams Room Pro
Share and view all Teams content types
Large Gallery Support (up to 50 videos)
Split Gallery (Dual Screen)
Feature Comparison – Calling
Teams Room Basic
Teams 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 Basic
Teams Room Pro
Support for intelligent speakers with live transcription and speaker identification
Panoramic Room View
AI noise suppression
People counting / occupancy
Feature Comparison – Device Management
Teams Room Basic
Teams Room Pro
Teams Admin Centre enrollment & inventory
Automatic software updates
Detailed system and configuration info
Peripheral health management
Device history and activity
Custom health alerts
Device and usage analytics
Feature Comparison – Security & Compliance
Teams Room Basic
Teams 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.
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.
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.
For more information about Surface Headphones, you can check out the Microsoft product pages here.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’s SIP gateway service was officially released as of today today. This means organisations can now repurpose a wide range of ‘old’ SIP phones and use them with #MicrosoftTeams helping to reduce TCO of Teams Voice Migrations and drive value out of legacy hardware.
The new SIP Gateway Service (which has been in private preview for a few months) is a solution that enables core Teams calling functionality on compatible SIP phones including many from Cisco, Poly, Yealink and AudioCodes.
Breathing life into legacy handsets
The SIP Gateway supports the following core Teams calling functionality:
Inbound and outbound calls
Meeting dial-in and dial-out
Device level based “do not disturb”
Voicemail with message waiting
The SIP Gateway Service is FREE
Microsoft are making the SIP Gateway service for free, and any user can use the SIP Gateway so long as they meet the following requirements.
Licensed for Teams Phone via Office 365 E5, Microsoft 365 E5 or a standalone license.
Enabled for PSTN, which means a phone number in Teams assigned via Calling Plan, a Direct Routing or Carrier Connect (calling via third party apps not supported)
Common Area devices licensed via Common Area Phone license.
For the best experiece Teams Phones are recommended
In the official Microsoft Teams blog, Microsoft reminds us that while their SIP Gateway and Skype for Business 3PIP Gateway services provide valuable flexibility for organisations wishing to sweat their legacy SIP phone investments, Teams phone devices provide the most complete Teams experience.
What devices are supported
These are the currently supported phones (at time of writing).
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.
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).
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
Native calling plans 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 on the official annoucements from Enterprise Connect here.