Microsoft Bringing Teams to Conference Room Hardware
- By Kurt Mackie
- June 13, 2018
Microsoft is priming Teams, its enterprise collaboration application, to run on different types of conference room touchscreen devices and phones.
According to a Microsoft announcement late last week, the upcoming device support will include the Surface Hub, Microsoft's large-scale touchscreen device that comes with unified communications capabilities via Skype for Business, access to Microsoft Office applications and white-board drawing capabilities. Surface Hub devices began shipping in 2016, but Microsoft plans to release Surface Hub 2 devices next year.
A preview of the Teams app for Surface Hub devices can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store "later this month," Microsoft's announcement indicated, although it wasn't available at press time. The Teams app for Surface Hub devices will be a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app, which gets housed in the online Microsoft Store. A Surface Hub device can only run UWP apps, according to this Microsoft document. That restriction likely is why Teams, which was released last year as part of Office 365 subscriptions, is finally coming to the Surface Hub.
By the end of this month, Microsoft expects that Teams also will be supported by Skype Room System devices built by all of its partners, namely Crestron, HP, Lenovo, Logitech and Polycom. The Teams app will arrive via an update to Windows, and it'll arrive automatically, Microsoft indicated last year. Teams for Skype Room System devices will have a new "proximity detection" capability that will permit easy bookings of available systems within an organization, Microsoft promised.
A Skype Room System differs somewhat from a Surface Hub device, although both use the Skype for Business unified communication solution, which supports voice over IP, video, presence and messaging. A Skype Room System doesn't include Office applications and it doesn't have white-board screen-drawing capabilities.
Later this year, new conference phones built by Polycom and Yealink will have Teams apps included. At the end of this month, existing conference phones running Skype for Business will be able to join Teams meetings via a "one-touch join," Microsoft's announcement explained.
Microsoft also expects that so-called "Teams-enabled desk phones" from AudioCodes and Yealink will arrive "later this year" with an enhanced Teams user experience. These phones are office phone devices specifically designed for running Teams, with models for executives and professionals, according to a description by Tom Arbuthnot, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. His description shows photos of the devices.
There's yet another emerging phone device type that can run Teams called a "mobile phone station." These devices "will be made available later this year," the announcement indicated. It specifically mentioned the Plantronics mobile phone station device.
Apparently, a mobile phone station is sort of like a docking station for a mobile phone. "This new form factor will enable mobile-first users to seamlessly transition between spaces and benefit from high-quality audio, all driven from their mobile phone," Microsoft's announcement explained.
Windows Collaboration Display Devices
Lastly, Teams will be part of the new Windows Collaboration Display devices built by Microsoft's partners, as announced at Computex. Devices built by Avocor and Sharp are expected to hit the market "later this year." Microsoft's Friday announcement described Windows Collaboration Display devices in somewhat greater detail, suggesting that they can serve to amplify a PC that's been brought into a meeting:
People can connect a PC to one of these high-resolution, multi-touch displays, and utilize the integrated cameras, pen, stereo speakers and far field microphones to connect to and collaborate with colleagues. Windows Collaboration Displays will let people experience Microsoft 365 collaboration tools with Office, Teams and Whiteboard.
In those respects, a Windows Collaboration Display device, which comes with a large touchscreen, would seem to be equivalent to a Surface Hub device. In response to a question along those lines, a Microsoft spokesperson indicated that a Windows Collaboration Display is yet another option to address business needs, and it opens options for educational institutions. Here's how the spokesperson characterized these new devices:
Windows collaboration displays are positioned as a non-compute peripheral extending the PC desktop experience to room scale as well as an IoT Edge device with sensors that support Azure IoT spatial intelligence scenario. Beyond Teams, Windows collaboration displays are connected to Office 365 and offers additional value to commercial customers. With low price points and many screen size options, collaboration displays are a great fit for education customers. Windows collaboration displays meet a number of criteria ensuring they offer great quality pen and touch experience. They also feature audio and video capabilities certified by Skype.
As mentioned during Computex, Windows Collaboration Display devices can use Microsoft's new "IoT spatial intelligence" capabilities, which permit devices to sense environmental aspects. For instance, room sensors might be used to determine if a Windows Collaboration Display device is available for use.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.