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Microsoft Teams Getting Surface Hub and Phones Perks

Microsoft is readying a bunch of improvements to its Microsoft Teams collaboration platform for release this year and in the early part of 2022.

Teams Rooms on Surface Hub UI
Users of Microsoft Surface Hub videoconferencing devices are starting to get a new user interface (UI) from Microsoft called "Microsoft Teams Rooms on Surface Hub," according to a Thursday announcement.

The new UI "will automatically replace the current Surface Hub Teams app as part of a 4-week global rollout," the announcement added. It will bring features that are available in Microsoft Teams Rooms devices to Microsoft Surface Hub devices. Specifically, it's bringing "Together mode scenes, chat bubbles, live reactions, PowerPoint Live and Whiteboard," Microsoft indicated.

The prerequisite for getting the Microsoft Teams Rooms on Surface Hub UI is running at least Windows Version 19042.1202.

Also, two new tools Surface Hub management tools will be coming "later this year."

One of the new tools is the Teams Admin Center, which is designed for remotely monitoring and managing the "Teams Rooms experience on Teams devices." It'll be arriving "at no additional cost."

The other tool is the Microsoft Teams Rooms managed service. It requires having a Microsoft Teams Rooms Premium license. With the Microsoft Teams Rooms managed service, artificial intelligence is used to keep "Microsoft Teams Rooms devices up to date and proactively monitored."

Microsoft had previewed the Microsoft Teams Rooms on Surface Hub UI back in June. The phraseology is a little odd because Microsoft Surface Hub is Microsoft's wide-screen videoconferencing device, while Teams Rooms devices are videoconferencing devices built by Microsoft's partners. The Microsoft Surface Hub has capabilities that are lacking in Teams Rooms devices, such as the ability to run Office apps and a white-boarding capability.

New Microsoft Whiteboard App
Microsoft announced earlier this week that a new Microsoft Whiteboard application is now available for "web, Teams and Android," with apps for iOS and Windows coming "next month."

The new Whiteboard app has a more simplified interface. Its inking tools and content creation menus are now separated. Microsoft added larger and more colorful icons that are "easy to use for mouse, touch, and pen users alike." It added more than 40 new templates that can be customized. Its sticky notes feature has more color options, plus the ability to assign colors to users. Users can also insert reaction icons and images in whiteboards, plus they can build flowcharts and diagrams. Even the background of the whiteboard can be changed to a different color with the new app.

Whiteboard app features to come include the ability to insert documents, and use OneDrive for Business to share whiteboard files (coming in "early 2022"). It'll be possible to recover deleted whiteboard files from the Windows Recycle Bin, too. A coming "collaborative cursors" feature will show the identities of collaborators "in real time." A "laser pointer" feature also is in the works.

New Teams Phones and Device Capabilities
Microsoft announced some new Teams Phones and device capabilities earlier this week.

Apple CarPlay support for Microsoft Teams reached "general availability." Users can join meetings or make Teams calls using the Siri digital assistant.

Microsoft's spam call identification feature reached "general availability." It identifies "likely spam calls." The feature also attests to the identities of outgoing calls to avoid rejections.

It's possible to transfer a Teams call to another device if it's running the Teams app. Such an action might be done to move a call to a mobile device, for instance.

The ability of administrators to remotely sign out of Teams android devices from the Teams Admin Center will be coming "at the end of September." It'll work with Teams Phones and Teams Display devices. Users of the Teams Admin Center are also getting the ability to download "Teams application logs" plus "company portal, device management and media logs."

A walkie-talkie feature, adding a push-to-talk feature for Teams devices, is launching in October 2021.

Teams Phone devices are getting the ability to record and transcribe one-to-one call sessions. This capability will be available "by the end of 2021."

Teams Phones and PSTN Connections
Teams Phone devices are getting some capabilities that improve its use of the public-switched telephone network (PSTN).

An Operator Connect capability, now at general availability, "enables PSTN services in Teams with participating operators." It lets organizations keep their contracts with PSTN operators and assign phone numbers to users in the Teams Admin Center. Alternatively, organizations can use the Microsoft Teams Calling Plans service, where Microsoft serves as the operator, which now is available in 33 markets.

Microsoft recently described how to set up Microsoft Teams Phones to use the PSTN in this blog post.

Microsoft is planning to deliver a SIP Gateway solution "in November." It will enable "Teams core calling functionality on select Cisco, Poly, Yealink and AudioCodes SIP phones," Microsoft explained.

A Branch Office Survivability for Phones capability will be "available later this year." It will let phones make "PSTN calls even when the network connection is unavailable."

Teams Broadcast Enhancements
Microsoft this week also described some enhancements for organizations that use Microsoft Teams to broadcast to audiences.

There are some presenter perks, such as the "co-organizer" feature, which lets organizations "assign multiple organizers for each event" (up to 10) before it begins. Co-organizers have the same permissions as organizers. They can manage event options, admit attendees, create polls and more. The co-organizer feature will be "available in the next few months."

A Q&A capability for use in Teams presentations will be available as a preview "later this year." It'll let organizers and presenters "mark best answers, filter responses, moderate and dismiss questions and pin posts."

Teams presentations can be live-streamed to a LinkedIn social network account using a LinkedIn Live app. "This capability will be generally available by the end of the year," Microsoft indicated.

The PowerPoint Cameo capability, which lets presenters put a video feed of themselves into a PowerPoint Live in Teams presentation, was described as "seamlessly" integrating Teams camera feeds. Cameo, as well as a "speaker coach" feature in Teams, will be arriving "in early 2022."

Microsoft expanded its "hardware-out functionality with Microsoft Teams" partnerships. New hardware partners include AJA and Blackmagic Design. Devices from these companies pull steaming media into a clean feed, "enabling output to SDI, HDMI, or whatever your hardware supports." The feed can then be put into a live broadcast. "This capability will be generally available by the end of October," the announcement indicated.

Broadcast connections for Teams are now supported for "NDI, SDI, HDMI, SRT and RTMP," Microsoft indicated.

Teams September Announcements
If that weren't enough, Microsoft shared improvements that are new for Teams in September in this announcement.

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