Microsoft Teams announced upgrades, Outlook introduces RSVP, more news

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PHOTO: Anvesh | unsplash


It’s hard to imagine the digital workplace of five years ago. Think about it: COVID-19 didn’t exist and remote working was still considered a luxury. When Microsoft launched Teams as a workplace communication tool on March 14, 2017, it was against this background. In the years since, Teams has become the center of the digital workplace for those working in Microsoft environments. Microsoft has continued to augment Teams with everything from Office apps to video conferencing.

According to a recent blog post by Microsoft Teams Vice President Nicole Herskowitz, more than 270 million people rely on Teams for hybrid work and more than 50% of organizations have standardized Teams, according to a recent Morgan Stanley CIO survey.

With the shift from remote to hybrid work, active Teams Rooms devices have more than doubled year over year, and Teams Phone now has nearly 80 million active users, while the use of Teams by frontline workers doubled year over year.

Microsoft has now announced a number of ongoing updates, some of which have been unveiled over the past few months. Taken together, the new additions aim to facilitate hybrid and remote working.

1.Outlook RSVP

One of the hardest things to decide in the hybrid context is when workers should work from home or when they should report to a central office. Citing its recent workplace study, Microsoft noted that 38% of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come to the office, while only 28% of companies have established team agreements on who will work and from where.

Microsoft is introducing Outlook RSVP in an effort to coordinate this. Outlook RSVP allows users to indicate when they respond to a meeting invitation whether you plan to join in person or virtually. These new RSVP options are expected to be available in public preview in Outlook on the web in Q2 2022.

2. Team phone: Operator Connect Mobile

According to data from Microsoft, more than 50% of hybrid workers plan to go fully remote in the next year. With this demand for more flexibility and mobility, the days of a fixed desk phone in a fixed office are over.

Teams Phone will soon offer a first mobile experience with Operator Connect Mobile. The service works in partnership with some of the largest telecommunications operators in the world, including BT, Rogers, Swisscom, Telia and Verizon. The result is a single phone number, whether you’re sitting at a desk in a central office or working remotely on your mobile device.

3. Teams connect shared channels

In late 2021, Microsoft announced Teams Connect shared channels, which enable collaboration with people inside and outside the organization in a shared workspace. Participants can communicate, schedule a meeting, share files, and collaborate on apps without switching accounts. Shared channels for Teams Connect will enter preview at the end of this month.

Another upgrade worth mentioning is the new Inspiration library, which will be previewed through the Viva Insights app in Teams. The Inspiration Library provides access to curated content on common workplace challenges. The Inspiration Library preview will start rolling out to Microsoft 365 users with the Microsoft Viva Insights app in Teams later this month and will be available globally in 11 supported languages ​​by the end of it. April.

Expect to hear more about these releases in the weeks and months to come.

Google refreshes its smart web

In recent years, Mountain View, California. google added new features and functionality to Gmail to make it a workplace, not just an email app.

A new release this week focuses on how Google Docs and Gmail interact. The Google Docs email draft template allows multiple users to draft emails. Once done, there is an option to export to Gmail with the relevant fields filled in automatically.

But the version is more important than Gmail and is related to Google’s development of its Smart Canvas. The company showcased Smart Canvas at Google I/O last year. Smart Canvas brings together a number of collaborative tools aimed at improving the way Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides work together. Don’t get me wrong, Smart Canvas isn’t a suite of new products, but it’s what Google describes as a “new product experience” that enhances functionality that already exists in Google apps.

The launch is built on the Smart Canvas “@menu” which allows users to perform different actions.

“We’re making it easier to collaborate on an email draft in Docs with the new email draft template,” Google said. in a blog post on the new feature. The feature was first announced in February and is now starting to roll out to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

The email draft template follows other recent versions of Smart Canvas. For example, last month it added automated document summaries and the ability to embed Google Maps into documents.

It also last month introduced “pageless format” in Docs, which removes one-page document limits, while suggesting that formula fixes in iSheets spreadsheets were in the works. Workspaces isn’t Microsoft 365, but it has most of the collaboration tools an average worker needs. With the rapid development of Smart Canvas, it continues to offer organizations a viable alternative to Microsoft with a much lower price.

Zoho Upgrades Low-Code Authoring Platform

Meanwhile, Austin, Texas, zoho recently upgraded its low-code offering, Zoho Creator Platform. With 15 years of low-code expertise under its belt, the company says the new unified development platform enables IT teams and business users to build sophisticated, modern, and compliant solutions through a low-code experience.

Organizations are currently facing a huge demand for new enterprise software, but existing low-code platforms for business users only facilitate the creation of basic applications, lacking the sophistication needed to develop tools for Scalable, enterprise-ready end-to-end with centralized governance.

Creator Platform is Zoho’s answer to this. With the recent update, Zoho’s Creator Platform now combines app development, integrations, process automation, business intelligence, and analytics into one platform. It also gives teams the tools to manage security, compliance, and governance issues.

The Zoho Creator Platform integrates data and digital processes to facilitate the creation of agile solutions for business users and IT teams.

Last month, Zoho announced that its Workplace had grown 34% year over year, with more than 40% of new migrations coming from Google and Microsoft. The company recorded strong momentum across all segments, with SME customers increasing by 40%, mid-sized companies by 36% and corporate customers by more than 20%.

With low-code/no-code options growing in popularity, the revamped platform will likely increase Zoho’s traction in both the SMB and enterprise space.

Has FutureAI Improved AI

Meanwhile, in what appears to be an interesting advancement in the development of Washington, D.C.-based general artificial intelligence FutureAI unveiled new technology that enables its flagship Brain Simulator technology to understand 3D objects found in 3D environments.

The new technology is based on concepts learned during three years of development on the Brain Simulator. The company states that its artificial entity (known as Sallie) is now able to learn from real-world environments.

Sallie demonstrates a fundamental understanding of physical objects in reality, cause and effect, and the passage of time. It does this by using moveable sensory modules that help the system learn so it can then work better with people. This contrasts with robots that are programmed directly to help people.

The idea is that the system will use the knowledge it gains in other apps, including personal assistants like Alexa and Siri, automated customer service systems, and other bots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot. FutureAI’s current development is migrating Sallie to a real-world robotic system.

FutureAI recently raised $2 million in private equity which the company says it is using to expand its team and accelerate the development of its technology, including algorithms like the Universal Knowledge Store (UKS), which aggregates different types of information and creates links between them, similar to the cognitive processes of human intelligence.

Laserfiche teams up with Girls Who Code

Finally this week, the Long Beach, Calif.-based content management and BPA provider laserfiche announced a partnership with a New York-based nonprofit girls who codewhose mission is to close the gender gap in technology and computing.

Girls Who Code has reached more than 500 million people worldwide and 450,000 girls from grade school through college through its programming since its launch in 2012. Half of the girls it works with are from groups historically underrepresented in the tech industry.

“Girls Who Code aims to change the image of what a programmer looks and does,” says Girls Who Code CEO Tarika Barrett in a statement announcing the partnership. The timing of the announcement coincided with International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements as well as highlight persistent gender gaps.

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