Microsoft Profiles New Teams Devices and Calling Features

Microsoft last week provided an update on new and coming devices for making Microsoft Teams conference calls, and also described some coming Teams Calling features.

The new Teams devices, built by hardware partners, have different product names. There are USB Phones, Affordable Phones, Teams Displays and Teams Phones among the bunch.

Teams Phones have been on the market since 2018, but the other products are new. Teams Phones products, though, will be getting an updated design. They will have features such as "sidecar support, redesigned home screen UI, and enterprise grade security and management," Microsoft promised.

Affordable Phones are expected to arrive next year. However, other devices are said to be currently available.

New Devices Currently Available
The first Microsoft-certified Teams USB Phone, the Yealink MP50, "will be available this month," Microsoft indicated. A Teams USB Phone plugs directly into a PC or docking station, freeing up a computer a screen during meetings. The phone has a dedicated Teams button on its console.

Lenovo has produced a Teams Display device, called the "ThinkSmart View," which is currently available. A Teams Display device has an "ambient" touch screen and Cortana voice-assistance features, and is said to enable "high-quality calling and video."

We were supposed to have seen a Teams Display device from Yealink arrive this year. It wasn't described in Microsoft's announcements, though.

Affordable Phones in 2021
Affordable Phones from Audio Codes and Yealink will be "available for purchase in the spring of 2021," Microsoft indicated. These Affordable Phones have a screen display on the device, but the screen is not touch enabled. They have dedicated Teams buttons, too.

Device as a Service Portal
Microsoft described a new payments program for buying these Teams devices from partners. The program is called "Device as a Service." Essentially, Device as a Service is a Web page used to buy devices used for Microsoft Teams conference calls. Organizations can buy or lease Teams devices on payment-plan terms, with warranty support options.

Currently, this Device as a Service Web portal is just available for U.S. customers. Microsoft is planning to broaden access to Device as a Service for customers outside the United States sometime "in 2021."

Coming Teams Calling Features
Microsoft uses the phrase "Teams Calling" to refer to voice-over-IP telephony capabilities that become available when organizations purchase the Phone System and Calling Plans add-on plans for Teams. In August, a Microsoft spokesperson explained Teams Calling as follows:

Teams Calling capabilities are included in the Calling Plans. These are not different. Teams Calling is built into teams and you can make VOIP calls (within your organization) out of the box. Calling Plans are tied to making and receiving calls outside your organization and give you calling minutes. They are available in select markets.

Microsoft partner Broadpoint provided a more specific breakdown of what's needed to use Calling in Teams in this blog post

New calling features for Teams users are getting introduced, per Microsoft's announcements. However the timing mostly wasn't described.

Those new features include:

  • An "enhanced Calls app," meaning that the Teams user interface will show "the dial pad, call history, voicemail, contacts and settings" in one location.
  • Ability to save the recordings of Teams calls to either OneDrive or SharePoint.
  • Identification of incoming potential spam calls, plus ID attestation for outgoing calls.
  • A Reverse Number Look-Up feature showing the name of callers.
  • A Call Merge feature to blend multiple one-on-one calls, which is "now available."
  • A Low-Data Mode for preserving bandwidth in cases of limited connections, available in "early 2021."
  • Ability to transfer calls made on a mobile device to a desktop device, "starting in early 2021."
  • CarPlay support for placing Teams calls from a vehicle.

Teams Workflow Improvements
Microsoft also indicated that it's adding improvements to Teams calling workflows. One of those improvements is the ability to put team members into a specific channel with a "collaborative calling" capability, which is coming in "early 2021." Microsoft's example is putting "IT or help desks" into a channel so that those team members can respond to service calls.

Microsoft also plans to certify contact center solutions used with Teams, but those certifications are only expected to get completed in "early 2021."

Another certification program for Session Border Controller vendors will help roll out so-called "Survivable Branch Appliance" products. These devices will "support the most critical conversations in the event of an outage" over the public switched telephone network. The certifications pertain to vendor support for Microsoft's Direct Routing feature. A list of certified vendors can be found in this document.

Another workflow improvement is a ring-back action when transferred calls aren't answered. "If the transfer recipient does not answer the call, the call will ring back to the person making the transfer," Microsoft explained.

November Teams Perks
Also this week, Microsoft described Teams features from last month. Availability for subscribers wasn't described.

The November improvements are bringing features such as Together Mode, which puts meeting participants into conference-like scene, which supposedly makes remote meetings seem more natural. A new Presentation Mode on iOS devices improves the ability to see shared content.

Microsoft also introduced the ability to conduct polls in meetings. The ability to start a meeting from a mobile device was improved to more easily invite or add participants. 

Lots more was described in the December Microsoft Teams announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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