Microsoft aims to enable the future of work with new Teams features and devices

Microsoft Corp. is doubling down on what it says will be the “future of work” amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At its Ignite 2020 virtual event today, it announced a host of new products and services it says will help people to become more productive, whether they’re working remotely or simply being careful to maintain social distancing upon their return to the office.

For remote workers the main focus has been on expanding the capabilities of Microsoft’s Teams collaboration app, Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President Jared Spataro said in a blog post. For example, Teams Together Mode, which is an experience that’s meant to help participants feel closer together even when they are apart by placing them in a shared background, is getting more options, including auditoriums, conference rooms and even a virtual coffee shop.

Of course that’s just an aesthetic improvement, but Microsoft isn’t neglecting Teams’ functionality either, Spataro said. For example, next month Teams will add a highly requested feature called Breakout Rooms that will allow meeting organizers to split up participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or work group discussions.

“Presenters can then hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and close the rooms to return everyone to the main meeting,” he said.

Also coming to Teams is a new recap feature, which makes recordings, transcripts, chats and shared files available to meeting organizers after a session has finished. The recap will be made available in the Outlook calendar as well as in Teams. Later they will be stored as files in Microsoft SharePoint so they can be shared with colleagues and external participants more easily.

Meanwhile, Teams is being expanded with support for up to 1,000 participants who will have access to the full meeting experience by the end of the year, and 20,000 participants in view-only mode.

Workspaces of the future

Microsoft is also playing its part in helping to create safe workspaces for those returning to the office, Spataro said. The company believes that tools such as Microsoft Teams Rooms and its Surface Hub devices will be critical in enabling what it calls “hybrid workplace experiences.”

To that end, it’s announcing a new category of devices called Microsoft Teams panels that can be mounted on the wall outside of a meeting space to notify people of scheduling and occupancy, and to assist with finding one’s way around the office, all with a view to maintaining social distancing.

“Teams panels can also use information from other connected certified Teams devices, like cameras that support people counting, to show room capacity information and help everyone follow their organization’s safety guidelines for shared spaces,” Spataro said.

In addition, Teams Rooms devices will get support for new touchless meeting capabilities later in the year. The company also announced a new Surface Hub 2S 85-inch model (pictured, below) available for pre-order starting today.


As ever, Microsoft is announcing plenty of security-related updates too. The company said it’s unifying its Microsoft Defender product that prevents, detects and responds to security threats across Microsoft 365 and Azure to deliver what it says will be the most comprehensive extended detection and response system available on the market.

There’s also a new Compliance Manager service for Microsoft 365 and Azure that’s designed to help companies comply with various industry and regional compliance regulations. It comes with a library of more than 150 out-of-the-box, scalable assessments, Microsoft said.

Finally, the company announced new Azure Active Directory Application Proxy capabilities and partner integrations, plus connectors for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Graph APIs.

Image: Microsoft

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