UC Today host Rob Scott and expert guest and Microsoft MVP, Tom Arbuthnot bring us this JULY 2020 update
**Apologies for the video and audio being slightly out of sync, Microsoft Teams reduced the frame rate for some reason which resulted in a glitchy session recording – best enjoyed as a podcast this time 🙂**
In this session we discuss:
In June, Microsoft released a slew of new features and updates – so we were expecting a slightly slower month this time around.
After all, Microsoft Teams has just launched its new compliance recording features that lets you ensure compliance in several different ways. We also saw Microsoft Lists make initial headlines as a cross between a daily planner and your to-do lists. What’s more, Microsoft acquired the SBC company, Metaswitch to power its foray into 5G readiness.
As Microsoft MVP Tom Arbuthnot put it, “Microsoft doesn’t seem to have taken any time out recently!”
So, we were doubly impressed when we looked at Microsoft ’s laundry list of new announcements for Teams in July. In this podcast, we sat down with Tom, for a detailed session on what’s new with Microsoft Teams, how the user experience might be changing, and which events we look forward to this quarter.
Check out the full video to hear it straight from the man himself. You could also head to tomtalks.blog for more exclusive insights from a Teams veteran and behind-the-scenes expert.
Today, we discuss the top highlights and notable moments from the conversation.
There has been a lot of chatter around Citrix Video Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) getting certified for Microsoft Teams. We have been following the buzz for many months now, and we were delighted to see that Microsoft ’s native VDI service – called Windows Virtual Desktop from Azure – is getting an update, apart from its partner-powered media optimisation from Citrix.
“A quick reminder: VDI streams your desktop experience from the cloud or from a data centre. You have a fairly low compute footprint because you’re operating a basic terminal that receives the video,” Tom explained.
And this has several benefits:
However, this poses a severe challenge for collaboration. There is frequently a quality dip as audio/video isn’t routed directly to your end terminal. “VDI is excellent for some scenarios, but pretty horrible for unified communication because we want audio and video to go from person to person on the shortest path – not via the data centre,” Tom explained.
That’s why Microsoft has developed Teams Media Optimisation to decouple UC audio and video from the desktop image on Teams. It allows the audio and video paths to stay on the local terminal, while data centre hosting is applied only to the desktop. Hopefully, users will be able to get a little closer to a native Teams experience on Azure, which is something a lot of people are waiting for, says Tom.
What’s interesting is Microsoft ’s pragmatic approach to this.
“Microsoft has got an internal solution, but they have also got Citrix. Whoever does the work, comes to market first. They don’t put their own team in front of third parties,” Tom pointed out.
Here the full podcast to learn why the Citrix + Microsoft Teams VDI partnership makes perfect sense and read more on Tom’s blog on the subject.
This is a small one, but a feature that makes a massive difference to users around the world – particularly in education, which seems to be Microsoft’s primary use case. “In education, teachers want to see all of their students at once, just to see if they’re paying attention and if they are engaged at the computer,” Tom said.
Now, you’ll be able to view up to 49 participants side-by-side in a Teams video call.
At UC Today, we were trying out Teams conferencing grids and noticed something interesting: the layout is more dynamic and participant thumbnails move around for a while before settling down. We asked Tom why this was happening.
“Microsoft is trying to be clever with the layout. If you’ve got nine people on a call but only four using video, why would you put the active speaker in a great big black square and take up all the real estate? They’re trying to think through like optimal layouts for different configurations of people. It’s very dynamic because the client makes decisions around the optimal layout, who’s speaking, and bandwidth,” said Tom.
We expect this to make a massive difference during all-hands meetings and in classrooms, where participant visualisation makes a big difference to the UX.
It would make sense for Microsoft and Cisco to arrive at some level of interoperability, given that most large enterprises use both vendors.
“For Microsoft, the upside is if someone has gone for Cisco gear, they can still get Teams in the mix. And for Cisco, if a customer is going in for Microsoft 365, they’re probably interested in Teams. You don’t want to force them to go to another vendor for supportability,” Tom mentioned.
From July, Microsoft Teams users will be able to deploy Cisco Session Border Controllers (SBCs) to connect your SIP network with Teams.
This is great news for companies with a hybrid environment where you have a traditional Cisco infrastructure (Webex, Call Manager, etc.) as well as Microsoft Teams. “They’ll be like ‘I’ve spent a trillion pounds on desk phones, they’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable investment cycle. But I’ve got salespeople on the road and remote work, for which Teams is great.’ The tie-up opens up this opportunity to have both in co-exist and call each other,” said Tom.
We also deep-dived into the new range of Teams certified collaboration bars from Yealink and Poly. tom calls these a “soundbar-like looking device with a video camera in the middle.” Do they have a role in today’s arguably saturated collaboration hardware market? Tom thinks so.
“They give a really interesting option for a huddle space. Obviously in world events, being world events in the context of a pandemic, huddle spaces are an important concept. So, it’s more like personal, [social-distancing friendly] video room space – and potentially like a high-end work from home scenario. For anyone who wants a dedicated unit,” Tom said.
Hear the full podcast for our discussion on Poly X30 and X50, as well as Yealink’s collaboration bar offerings.
Before we jump onto the next topic, we wanted to know how Microsoft Teams Rooms would stay relevant in competition with these collaboration bars.
“The collaboration bars are trying to hit a more aggressive price point and are mostly Android-based. The Microsoft Teams Rooms inherit a lot of the benefits of Windows. They can do dual-screen display and transmit 1080p video rather than 720p on the collab bars.”
On the software side of things, we were eager to discuss the hotly debated Microsoft Teams Consumer Version (Tom shared his early thoughts on this in a March 2020 blog).
Microsoft was bold with the rollout, choosing to release a mobile-only version that is in sharp contrast with the business edition of Teams. Traditionally, the Teams desktop client provides the most powerful and complete user experience. According to Tom, this might have to do with Microsoft’s agile approach, where they are focused on fast releases to gather feedback and iterate.
So, who is Microsoft Teams Consumer Version for?
Tom calls its target user the prosumer.
“I contact my family or my group of friends, I’m organising a holiday – because I can do chats, I can do video messaging, I can do files, I can do task lists. There’s even a password manager in there! It kind brings your family communications or your social communications together in one place,” he told us.
However, there could be a big barrier to adoption – the consumer mindset of “a button does a thing.”
How do you convince users and their families that a single button does 6, 7 or even 8 things? As Tom said, this is an aggressive launch from Microsoft, one that will take time to play out in the marketplace.
At the time of recording the podcast, Comsverse 2020 was about two weeks away – one of Microsoft ’s major community events for the year. Commsverse is now fully virtual with both live and on-demand sessions. Tune in between 6th and 9th of July for some exciting content on Microsoft Teams. Tom will be there on the 9th talking about Teams governance as well as a myth-busting session.
The team at UC Today is delighted to be a media partner for Comsverse 2020, and we look forward to bringing you the latest tips, tricks, and updates from the event. We’d like to thank Ribbon Communications for sponsoring the July 2020 Microsoft Teams Update podcast – and of course, a big shoutout to Tom Arbuthnot for his time, insights, and expertise.
If you found this an interesting read, check out the full podcast for more on:
This month’s Microsoft Teams News Update is sponsored by Ribbon Communications.
Don’t forget to signup to Commsverse, an ONLINE Microsoft Teams Conference which opens July 6th – 9th.
You can access all our Microsoft Teams Podcasts here, on Spotify, Apple iTunes and Google Podcasts.
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