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Microsoft Teams adds private channels, room appliances

After the vendor unexpectedly delayed their launch in September, Microsoft Teams private channels are now rolling out to all customers.

After multiple delays, Microsoft has launched one of the most highly demanded features for Microsoft Teams -- private channels.

Microsoft said the configuration would begin rolling out this week. Private channels are visible only to the people in them, letting organizations create confidential collaboration spaces within a team.

The company had planned to launch the feature in September but delayed its rollout until early November without explanation. Private channels have been in the works since at least 2017 and were once slated to launch in 2018.

"This had been a gap in [Teams'] feature set that may have influenced the decision of many customers to not make the switch from Skype to Teams," said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, an analyst at 451 Research.

However, private channels come with some limitations at launch. They do not integrate with the Office 365 apps Stream, Planner or Forms, nor do they support messaging extensions or bots. Microsoft did not announce a timeline for adding those capabilities.

Also, Microsoft said it would add support for pop-out windows early next year. That will let users conduct chats, meetings and calls in separate windows. Other new features coming soon include polls, surveys, pinned channels and a tab for the social networking app Yammer.  

The company made the announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2019, its annual user conference in Orlando, Fla.

Microsoft to certify video appliances from Poly, Yealink

Microsoft announced that Poly and Yealink would launch new all-in-one video systems for Teams in early 2020.

The Poly X Series and the Yealink VC210 include not only a camera and a microphone but also a computer for running the Teams software. Most room systems today require a separate computer, such as an Intel NUC mini PC or a Google Chromebox.

The all-in-one video bars should make it easier to deploy and manage web conferencing systems in small and medium rooms. Businesses will still need more sophisticated equipment for larger conference rooms and boardrooms.

Zoom was the first video conferencing vendor to announce support for the Poly X Series last month. Zoom has also certified a similar video appliance from the startup Neat.

Microsoft enhances Teams integration with Outlook

Early next year, Microsoft plans to give users the ability to transfer an email and its attachments from Microsoft Outlook to Teams. Users will also be able to export a Teams conversation into Outlook.

Plus, users who prefer communicating via email will be able to respond to Teams messages in Outlook. Those users will receive email notifications any time they are messaged or tagged.

Microsoft is playing catchup with rival Slack when it comes to email integrations. Slack's add-on for Outlook already let users export emails to its team messaging app and respond to messages via email. Unlike Microsoft, Slack also supports a similar set of features for Google's Gmail.

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