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September 26, 2020

Raft of New Features Coming to Microsoft Teams


In trolling the various Websites I read to keep up with Windows 10 stuff, I was interested to see this headline at Thurrott.com this morning Microsoft Announces New Teams Features. Basically, Mr. Thurrott’s article summaries a Microsoft 365 blog post from Nicole Herskowitz, MS Teams General Manager dated Monday, August 3. I think it’s fair to call this item a “preview of coming attractions” because it’s basically a list of new items on which the Teams development team is at work, with only a few delivery dates either mentioned or promised.

OK Then, What’s on That Raft?

This pre-announcement hinges on a new Advanced Communication plan from Microsoft, which as Ms. Herskowitz explains in her blog post “can be added to any Microsoft 365 or Office 365 paid subscription.” This add-on is available “this week,” she continues, but hedges on actual availability by saying “each of these new capabilities will be enabled” as part of the new plan. Honestly, I just can’t tell if that mean it’s good to go, or if sign-up simply means that buyers will get the new stuff as soon as it’s available. Thurrott is curiously mum on this. too.

As for those new features, here they are:

+1: Up to 20,000 participants in Teams meetings: MS restricts the maximum number of interactive participants in a Teams meeting to 1,000. Once that limit is reached, up to 19,000 more participants can join, but this involves “a seamless shift to a ‘view only’ mode” when that ceiling is hit.
+2: Company branding: MS will allow organizations to add their company logos, color schemes and backgrounds to meetings. This is a “coming soon” item for which no delivery date is available.
+3: Teams calling: a cloud-based phone system integrates uses who need phone numbers to make and take calls with third parties (customers, partners, vendors, and so forth) in the office, at home, or a combination of the two.
+4: Teams Displays: Dedicated Teams devices with touch screens, high-quality video and calling capabilities, plus hands-free experiences via Cortana (interesting that, given Cortana’s recent slide from center stage in Windows 10).
+5: Skype for Business phones get Extended support beyond 2023: Those who’ve invested in Skype for Business handsets can keep using them as they migrate into the Teams-verse. MS also indicates it will support core calling features on SIP phones from the likes of Cisco, Polycom, Yealink and others via Teams. SIP phone support is promised for H1 2021.
+6: Teams phones: yeah, baby! A new family of Microsoft Teams handsets with, in Ms. Herskowitz’s words, “physical buttons, high-quality audio, and core calling features at an affordable price” will be making their debut in “late 2020.” The same third-party players mentioned in the preceding item — namely, Cisco, Polycom and Yealink — will be participating in this upcoming device collection, of which “the first will be shipped with Yealink,” says Ms. H.

I must confess, I find myself wondering if Kari and I should sign up for the Advanced Communication plan just to see what might be available by way of a Teams phone for my desk. I’m guessing it may be a bit rich for a two-man shop, but who knows? Should be interesting to find out!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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