Thursday, March 15, 2018

Microsoft Communications on the Enterprise Connect 2018 Expo Floor – Day 1

For those of you that were not able to make it to Enterprise Connect this year, I wanted to bring a bit of my perspective from the Expo Floor. While there were some pretty big announcements blasted out via official Microsoft blogs on Monday, there is also a lot happening with several of Microsoft’s strategic device & solution partners – and much of this was on display on the Expo Floor. Let’s start with the Microsoft Booth.

 Microsoft – Teams & Skype for Business

Ok, the “Skype for Business” portion of that title is more or less a courtesy, as Microsoft Teams has taken not just center stage, but almost the entire stage, at EC this year. As you can see from the picture above, the Microsoft booth is painted Teams-purple this year, with Teams at the epicenter. While you had the impressive Hub displays all over within the booth, there were also several big screens set up for Teams demonstration purposes.

Skype Room Systems

The display of Skype Room Systems is growing steadily (Will they continue to be called “Skype Room Systems”, I wonder…), and this was on display at the booth. Lenovo announced a new SRS during the Ignite timeframe last year, but I’ll get to them in a second (I stopped by their booth separately). The other new player in the SRS space is HP with their Elite Slice:

The Elite Slice has a propped up display, with the familiar interface of the other SRS’s. The cube-shaped box to the right is the computing base with ports for external devices, and on top of the computing base is a large speaker. The speaker is actually optional, and if you get the base without the speaker, the base can be under-mounted to the conference table, allowing for a cleaner tabletop.

Teams Interfaces for Devices

I’ll provide an image or two of the Teams interface on a couple partner devices a bit later on, but Microsoft has a glass case at their booth, filled with various partner devices, all running a Teams interface. I must say, the Teams interface does look pretty slick on these devices, and I am excited to see this piece of the Teams transition story coming into focus.

Lenovo Thinksmart HUB 500 (SRS)

As mentioned above, I was able to stop at the Lenovo booth on Day 1 to get a closer look at a full SRS setup using the new Lenovo Thinksmart HUB 500. This device can swivel a full 360 degrees for ease of access on all sides of the conference table. There is also a light that encompasses the base to match the Skype for Business status.

One thing I personally appreciated about this device from an aesthetic standpoint is the beveled edges at the top and bottom of the display.

As for the rest of the specs, I could list them here. OR, I could just share an image of the spec sheet that Lenovo was handing out at their booth. Yeah, let’s go with that last idea…

AudioCodes C450HD

AudioCodes was one of various Microsoft device partners to display the upcoming Teams interface on their newly announced C450HD:

As you might expect, this new interface has theming that is very nicely matched to the Microsoft Teams experience. The tabbed feel of the Teams menu is even present at the bottom of the phone, with Calls, Meetings, and Voicemail tabs present. There is also a Dialpad button on the screen, if you prefer to use an on-screen dialpad versus the physical keys, and contacts can be searched for with your GAL/Contacts through the search features in the upper-right hand corner.

While the C450HD is a new offering for AudioCodes, I should note that this new Teams experience is very consistent across the other 3rd-party devices that are also previewing this experience (Polycom and Yealink).

Yealink T58A & CP960 Teams Edition Conference Phone

Yealink’s newer T58A was on display at their booth, with a similar Teams experience as was described above. The design of this phone is a bit unique, bringing focus to the main screen, and affording a lot of real estate on this screen:

Shifting gears to the conference phone, Yealink’s CP960 Teams Edition was also on display, with a very familiar Teams experience. The interface brings a really “mobile phone” feel with it.

To each side of the CP960 are wireless peripheral speakers for distributed audio input in a conference room. These wireless speakers are very thin (a drink coaster comes to mind for comparison, though the speakers are obviously a bit thicker. When not in use, the speakers can be placed in a charging dock between meetings to ensure you don’t run into a nasty “out or batteries” situation mid-meeting:

Stay Tuned….

This was a brief summary of some of the device innovations that I was able to soak in during Day 1 of Enterprise Connect. Stay tuned, as I will be spending the greater part of Day 3 on the Expo Floor, and will be bringing a short description of the new features and devices that I observe from the other partners out there in the Microsoft UC ecosystem!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Landis' Technologies' Office 365 Contact Center, Calling in Microsoft Teams, & More News

The first #TeamsRecap episode of 2018 is finally here! This episode covered the following topics:

  • End of Life Support for OCS
  • Skype for Business client updates
  • Fulfilled Calling Roadmap items for Microsoft Teams
  • Landis Technologies' Office 365 Contact Center

To watch the video in my YouTube channel, and to get the links to the above content in the Video Description, check it out at the following link:

Or you can watch the video right here in this post:

Some Changes for the #TeamsRecap Webcast

Through the holidays of 2017, and the first half of January 2018, the #TeamsRecap webcast took a bit of a break. Not only was it a very busy time riddled with family visitations and the traditional passing around of the random sicknesses, but I was also taking time to ponder what was next, for the #TeamsRecap.

I was starting to have a hard time keeping up with the consistent weekly cadence of the show that had been present for the first 2 years, and felt that it may also be time to have more than just my ugly mug talking about Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams news. So, after a bit of pondering, the #TeamsRecap is resurfacing with its first guest Co-Host, MVP Matt Landis of Landis Technologies!

In addition to having guest Co-Hosts, the show is also longer, as we take time to discuss the normal list of topics that I work my way through in the browser tabs. Previously, the show targeted about a 15-minute timeframe. I know this was desirable for some of you, but this new format will likely range anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour (though I want to try to keep it well under an hour when possible). While there is a sacrifice on the brevity, more perspective is being brought, and I feel that there is good value in that.

Finally, when doing a show with a Co-Host, I needed to find another platform to record on. Pexip has graciously provided space on their Infinity platform for the meeting & recording of the episodes, and I want to extend a HUGE thank you to Graham Walsh and the entire team over at Pexip - thank you for making this new format for the #TeamsRecap possible! Check them out:

More changes may come throughout the year, but this is a good starting point. As always, though, I would LOVE to get your thoughts and in-filtered feedback.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Getting Started with PSTN Calling in Microsoft Teams

Last week Microsoft finally released basic PSTN Calling features into the Microsoft Teams client for the general public. These features have been touted heavily since Microsoft Ignite in September, and they are only the start of Microsoft's projected 12-month roadmap for moving Phone System into Microsoft Teams.

Before you start pulling the trigger on moving a bunch of your Phone System users over to using Microsoft Teams as their primary calling client (instead of Skype for Business), there are several caveats that you need to be aware of. I made a brief tutorial/demo video that goes into detail on these caveats, and really helps explain what they mean for Phone System users.

You can follow this link for more info and a demo, or watch the video below (following the link takes you to YouTube, where you can watch the video in a larger frame):

I hope you find the video insightful and useful, and if you have any feedback or suggestions about how these videos could be better, please don't hesitate to let me know. I will be releasing more of these as Microsoft gradually releases more of these roadmap features over the next 12 months!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Microsoft Teams Roadmap - Calling, Conference Recording & More

Today, Microsoft published the much-anticipated Roadmap for many of the features that were discussed during various sessions at Microsoft Ignite 2017. While the Roadmap does provide general guidance, and it can be helpful for many reasons, always remember that actual GA delivery is subject to change due to QA Testing, or other unforeseen circumstances. Diving straight in...

The announcement broke down the various features and capabilities by a few key areas: Messaging, Meetings, and Calling.


While Messaging was not really the focus of some of the bigger announcements at Ignite, there are a still a few cool features that we can expect to be delivered soon. The following features are targeted for delivery in Q1 of 2018:
  • Hide Chat
  • Share Chat
  • Mute Chat
  • Messaging Policies
  • Messaging Retention Policies (the ability to retain for a finite time)
These are small features, but great for organizing your work environment within Teams, and creating a more neat and orderly Chat work space.

There are more components to the Roadmap for Messaging, but I will defer to Microsoft's official announcement (See Below) for those remaining items. I am excited to get to the Meeting and Calling stuff!


In my opinion, the evolution of Meetings within Teams provided for some the bigger and more impressive announcements at Microsoft Ignite. Taking a look at this image provided by Microsoft in their Roadmap announcement today, we can see that there are some very exciting new features coming to the Teams client as early as Q4 2017 (tentatively):

What's slated for Q4?

  • Audio Conferencing in 90+ countries
  • Anonymous Join
  • Interactive Troubleshooting
  • Lobby Support
  • Mute Other Participants
  • Application Sharing
  • Give & Take Control in Sharing
  • Support for meetings in Edge and Chrome browsers
  • Enable Call Quality Analytics
What's slated for end of quarter, Q2 CY2018?
  • Broadcast Meetings
  • Cloud Recording
  • Federated Meetings - Yes, you read that word correctly: FEDERATED.
  • Large Meeting Support (~250 participants)
  • Lobby for PSTN Callers
  • Outlook meeting schedule from other platforms (OWA, mobile, Mac)
  • PSTN Fallback
  • PowerPoint Load and Share
  • Whiteboard and Meeting Notes
  • Enable VTC Interop Services*
  • Skype Room Systems Support*
  • Surface Hub Support
  • Trio 1 Touch Teams Meeting Join*
  • User-Level Meeting Policy
  • eDiscovery enhancements
*Dependent on 3rd Party

As you can see, the Engineering team will be VERY busy over the next several months!


Finally, we come to the all-important PSTN capabilities within the Teams client. I was very happy to see that we should see this capabilities by the end of CY2017! Again - grain of salt - emphasis place on the word 'should', and of course the Roadmap is always subject to change. Let's take a look at the Roadmap for Calling:

The above image is a bit more...involved! There is a LOT coming, and this Roadmap will be very important when it comes to planning out strategy with your internal organization or clients. Let's start with what we can expect before the end of CY2017:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q4 CY2017:
  • Blind Transfer
  • Call Blocking
  • Call Forwarding
  • Hold
  • Multi-call Handling
  • Sim Ring
  • Caller ID Masking
  • Speed Dial
  • e911 Support
  • Extension Dialing
  • Translate user input to standard format phone #
  • Suggested Contacts
  • Voicemail
  • Enable Existing Calling Plan Support
Skype for Business Interop & Federation for Q4 CY2017:
  • Skype for Business Online - Teams Calling
  • Teams Interop Policies
Platform & Device Support for Q4 CY2017:
  • Windows, Mac, Edge, iOS, Android
  • TTY Support
IT Pro Capabilities for Q4 CY2017
  • Skype for Business Online - Teams Interop Policies
  • Call Quality Diagnostic Portal
Now, what can we tentatively expect by the end of quarter for Q2 CY2018? It gets pretty exciting:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q2 CY2018:
  • Boss & Delegate Support
  • Call Queues
  • Consultative & Safe Transfer
  • Do Not Disturb breaththrough
  • Distinctive Ringing
  • 1:1 to Group Call Escalation with Teams, Skype for Business, and PSTN Participants
  • Forward to Group
  • Org Auto Attendant
  • Transfer to PSTN Call
  • Hybrid Connection to Teams
  • Out of Office Support
Skype for Business Interop & Federation for Q2 CY2018:
  • Call Support between Teams & Skype Consumer

Platform & Device Support for Q2 CY2018:
  • Support for existing certified SIP Phones*
IT Pro Capabilities for Q2 CY2018:
  • eDiscovery enhancements
Finally, what will the Calling landscape look like by the end of CY2018 (Q4)? The plan is for these additional Enterprise Voice-like features to be added in to Teams:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q2 CY2018:
  • Call Park
  • Group Call Pickup
  • Location-based routing (LBR)
  • Shared Line Appearance
*Dependent on 3rd Party

Well, this is pretty exciting stuff! Check out the official Roadmap announcement on the TechCommunity here:

Keep your eye out for some of this awesomeness to start hitting your Teams client this quarter!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Re-Branding: Introducing the #TeamsRecap

Well, I finally did it. The #Skype4BRecap has been officially renamed to the #TeamsRecap! As you can see from the image above, I have even embraced the purple.

Admittedly, I struggled with whether or not to do this, as Skype for Business Server 2019 is still slated for H2 2018, per the latest from Ignite, and Skype for Business Online will still be around for some time. However, I came to the realization that when it comes to Skype for Business Server 2019, a LOT can happen between now and the actual release. AND, there is very clear marketing message that Microsoft is pushing 150% with Teams. SO, I decided that with much of my future content probably shifting more and more toward Teams, this was likely the right move.

At any rate, the show is still the same for now: same me, same format, same hat, etc. Again, though, this is for now. I am mulling over changing up a couple things, maybe just a bit, but time will tell with those. In the meantime, I have the latest episode of the #TeamsRecap published to YouTube, and ready to watch! Get caught up on what's new with the Skype UG (HINT: International locations may be in our future!), and get a good recap of all the Teams news from Microsoft Ignite:

Don't forget to Re-Tweet or Share on LinkedIn if you enjoy the show, or find it helpful/amusing!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Microsoft Teams & Skype for Business Specific Conference in the US?

On the heels of Microsoft Ignite, and right after UC Day UK just wrapped up in the UK, a small group of individuals would LOVE to know your interest level on bringing a smaller community-based event back onto the scene - one specifically focused on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams content (Microsoft UC, or IC now). Of course, if the interest level is there, we could actually see something amazing like this come back, in the spirit of what was once the Lync Conference (just led by Community members, rather than Microsoft).

This would be a US-based initiative, much like UC Day UK (now renamed to Evolve Conference) is in the UK. For a brief 1-day period, a poll is being conducted on Twitter to gauge the interest level:

Please, follow this link and take the 2 seconds that it takes to respond: 

OH, and spread the word, get as many people as you can within the greater North American area to respond with their honest feedback! With the right community-backing, a conference that is more tailored to the industry that we all work in and love could become a reality. Wouldn't that be freakin' incredible! 

ALSO, if you see this AFTER the poll closes, please reply in the Comments below and share your thoughts on whether or not you would go for this.

Ok, enough reading. GO! Vote! ;-)

Friday, September 22, 2017

How-To Video: PSTN Conferencing (Public Preview) in Microsoft Teams

In the final days before Microsoft Ignite, it appears that the Product Team has quietly gifted us with a brand new Public Preview feature: PSTN Conferencing in Microsoft Teams!

Please note, to be able to take advantage of this feature, you need to be licensed for PSTN Conferencing within Skype for Business Online. If you are not properly licensed for PSTN Conferencing, you simply won't see the Dialin Conferencing information in the Meeting Details.

The below video is an brief introduction to this feature, and how to use it. Keep in mind, the PSTN Conferencing settings that have been setup in Skype for Business Online appear to be what is carried over for Teams.

I hope that the above video was helpful in getting you started with Microsoft Teams meetings that have greater capabilities!