Microsoft has introduced several new apps and capabilities for Microsoft 365 at the 2021 Microsoft Ignite conference.
Among the announcements was the launch of Microsoft Loop, a new app that combines a flexible canvas with portable components that move freely and stay in sync across application. Loop comprises of three elements: Loop components, Loop pages and Loop workspaces.
Loop components are units of productivity that help users collaborate and complete work within chats, meetings, emails, documents and other formats. Organisations can build their own Loop components or leverage those created by Microsoft, including voting table, which allows for the quick creation of a pros and cons table to help finalise decisions, and status tracker, which help gather information from a team, track progress towards all aspects of a project, and maintain an up-to-date view of the project across team members.
Loop pages are flexible canvases where users can organise components and add elements such as links, files or data in ways that meet their specific needs. Loop workspaces, meanwhile, are shared spaces that allow teams to see and group everything important to a project, as well as reacting to others’ ideas and tracking progress towards goals. Microsoft Loop components are rolling out in preview across Microsoft 365 apps, such as Microsoft Teams, Outlook and OneNote in the coming months, with more Microsoft Loop functionality to follow.
Other developments will include the integration of Microsoft Mesh, Microsoft’s metaverse platform, into Microsoft Teams. This will introduce a new generation of 2D and 3D meetings, allowing organisations to create immersive virtual spaces that will resemble physical spaces such as conference rooms or design centres. Users will also be able to create personalised avatars and use artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate movements and gestures, enabling a physical presence in conversation even when their camera is turned off.
The Teams meeting experience will also be updated with the ability to assign roles from the scheduling form and see the order of raised hands to ensure that all voices are heard. The mobile overflow menu will also be revamped to prioritise key actions such as viewing chat and adding a notification drawer for system messages, so that users can more easily preview, collapse and clear all notifications.
New capabilities will also be incorporated into Microsoft Teams Connect, including options to share a channel with individuals and teams across multiple organisations, schedule a meeting, collaborate in real-time on apps and share channels with up to 50 teams and as many organisations as required, all of which will be available in public preview in the first quarter of 2022. Teams chat capabilities, meanwhile, will be extended to enable users to chat with team members outside their organisation with a Teams personal account by the end of 2021.
Additional options for webinars and broadcasting will also be added to Teams. A virtual green room will enable organisers and presenters to socialise, monitor chat, conduct Q&A’s, manage attendee settings, and share content before the event starts. They will also be able to manage what attendees see. Both capabilities will be available in preview in early 2022.
A new all-in-one digital contact centre solution was also announced at the conference, powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Teams. This will bring together traditional contact centre, unified communications, and customer service capabilities in a single, integrated software-as-a-service solution. This will allow users to deliver chat and voice connectivity and extensibility with other business applications.
In addition, Microsoft revealed that Microsoft Viva is now available for purchase as a suite that includes the Insights, Learning and Topics modules. The suite will also introduce a new foals management module in 2022 based on Microsoft’s recent acquisition of objectives and key results company Ally.io. Viva Learning is now generally available for all users, and new experiences will be launches for Viva Connections mobile and desktop. Viva Insights will offer a new meetings experience and manager insights to help employees build new habits and norms, while partner integrations previously announced for Viva Learning and Viva Connections such as AP SuccessFactors, Qualtrics, ServiceNow and Cornerstone OnDemand are now generally available.
Organisations can now also choose to upgrade to Windows 11 in the cloud with the Windows 365 Enterprise edition today, with support for the Business edition set to come soon. New updates include Enhanced security and support via a virtual Trusted Platform Module chip to enable Windows 11, web client improvements, support for Azure Active Directory joined Windows 365 and endpoint analytics resource reports in Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
Finally, Microsoft Defender for Business, a new endpoint security solution that helps organisations with up to 300 employees protect themselves against cyberattacks, will be available as a standalone solution and will be included in Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
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