Microsoft has added several features to its team collaboration platform Teams, including integration with the company's Cortana voice assistant and inline translation of messages written in foreign languages.
Microsoft introduced this week the latest features to its Slack and Cisco Spark competitor at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, Fla. Along with unveiling the new Microsoft Teams features, the company said the number of organizations using Teams has grown since its launch a year ago from 50,000 to 200,000. Businesses in 181 countries use Teams.
In general, team collaboration platforms include group messaging, file sharing, message encryption and voice and video conferencing support. Slack is most useful as a messaging-centric collaboration service while Teams and Spark are better as a single, unified platform with collaboration services and traditional voice and video, experts have said.
The Cortana integration is for Teams-enabled VoIP phone and conference room devices. The feature lets people use vocal commands to make a call, join a meeting or add people to a meeting.
The translation feature is for multilanguage Teams meetings. People can have their messages translated immediately.
Other Microsoft Teams features include:
- One-click meeting recordings with automatic transcription and time coding, which lets people search for comments or topics in a recording and play back the relevant portion;
- Background blurring during video calls to let participants focus on speakers instead of what's going on behind them;
- And meeting attendee sharing of live video streams, photos or screens from mobile devices.
New hardware support for Microsoft Teams
Microsoft is also adding to Teams calling features once available only in Skype for Business, which the company is gradually folding into the collaboration platform. In the second quarter, Microsoft plans to make it possible for customers to use their existing telephony infrastructure for calling from within Teams.
Companies that want the calling feature will have to combine a Microsoft Calling Plan or Direct Routing plan with the company's Phone System for Office 365. For now, companies need a subscription to the cloud-based office suite to use Teams. However, Microsoft is expected to release a freemium version eventually.
Besides Microsoft Teams features, the company introduced additional Teams-enabled hardware, including the Microsoft Surface Hub, an all-in-one interactive whiteboard for in-room collaboration. Other supporting devices include meeting room systems from Lenovo and HP Inc. and desk or conference phones from AudioCodes, Yealink, Creston and Polycom.
Finally, Microsoft announced Teams customers include hotelier RLH Corp., entertainment production company Technicolor and carmaker General Motors.