Enterprise Connect took place in Orlando, Florida last week & Microsoft Teams made a lasting impression! In this article we will look back and get the frank perspectives of Office Servers & Services - Skype for Business MVP's Alex Lewis, Adam Jacobs & Matt Landis on Enterprise Connect 2018 and Microsoft Teams.
Obviously, the biggest news was Microsoft winning Best of Show at Enterprise Connect 2018 for their work on Teams. Teams is the first solution to actualize the marriage of unified communications and collaboration. And, what a way to celebrate Teams' first birthday! Other recent news on Teams included Direct Routing for hybrid PSTN and the availability of guest access to Teams channels and meetings. Finally, background blurring for Teams is a very welcome change for us road warriors and work-from-home'rs that always seem to have something odd behind us during a video call.
In the devices world, AudioCodes and Yealink showed off handsets with a native teams firmware or "app". It offered single touch join for meetings and full PSTN calling functionality. Cortana integration is the first step in NLP (Natural Language Processing) and AI into the enterprise meeting space. Microsoft announced the Polycom Trio as one of the new conference phones with the native Teams phone application that will eventually have Cortana capabilities. Plantronics showed off a mobile device station for Teams as well making it simple to join Teams meetings or make calls from the mobile app on your phone or tablet. Logitech introduced their Intelligent Video technology allowing for convenient camera placement and automatic adjustments to make sure participants are always centered in the frame.
Overall, this felt like the biggest enterprise connect in years, maybe EVER! Gone were the kiosks and most of the smaller 10x10 booths. Vendors went big with the standard booth size seeming to be 10x20 or 20x20 and more enormous 30x70 booths than previous years. It wasnâ€™t just booths either, the floor was PACKED. Even on the last expo day, normally a snooze-fest, booths everywhere were filled with people and energy and excitement was still running high! It was great to experience firsthand and I shared in the excitement around the Microsoft ecosystem, Teams and all our customers journeys in UC.
It was awesome to see Microsoft picking up Best of Show at Enterprise Connect for Teams and great to see some new innovations coming to the platform including new partner integrations. I've been exposed to initiatives being driven by Microsoft and their openness has been welcomed -- especially given the architectural changes made within Teams.
Throughout the show I was approached and asked about how Microsoft's partners will integrate and whilst this story is still evolving we're all making great progress. Some of which was previously announced or was exposed at Enterprise Connect. So let's recap on this here:
All in all this was a great Enterprise Connect and a fantastic platform for Microsoft to celebrate their 1st birthday for Microsoft Teams!
Microsoft & Microsoft Teams was firing on all cylinders at Enterprise Connect 2018 on the exhibit floor, celebrating Teams one-year birthday, many hardware vendor announcements, a strong keynote on Wednesday & Best of Show at Enterprise Connect 2018 award.
For me, "Direct Routing" was a very significant announcement because we as a company especially focus on enabling voice scenarios to enable the move to Office 365. Direct Routing will not only allow Office 365 users to bring their own telephone lines to Microsoft Teams in a streamlined way, but also enables integrating other PBX's, voice applications and analogue devices into Microsoft Teams. Direct Routing looks like it will unblock a lot of scenarios and technically appears to be a much more elegant solution than Cloud Connector Edition for Skype for Business Online.
I was surprised to see that Microsoft was not represented on the various API panel discussions at Enterprise Connect and had no new announcements around Teams API's to enable 3rd party voice applications like IVR, auto attendant, routing & contact center. I suspect we will see more on this topic at Microsoft Build in May.
Another interesting announcement was the native Teams Phone being demonstrated by Audiocodes and Yealink. These devices run native Teams software developed by Microsoft which is optimized for desk phone calling and meeting joining.
Part of the buzz around Microsoft and Teams was the various vendors bringing hardware & solutions to the market: HP Slice Room System & Lenovo joins Logitech, Polycom and Crestron to bring a room system, AudioCodes & Yealink showing native Teams desk phones & Polycom, Yealink and Crestron showing conference phones and Plantronics creating a new kind of device that was being called a "mobile phone station" which combines a Plantronics headphone, mobile phone "docking" station and keypad as an interesting cross between a mobile phone & desk phone. Polycom, Pexip & Blue Jeans demonstrated video interoperability with Teams meetings.
Some of the wiz bang features in the keynote that were interesting: The ability to natively blur the background of a Teams video, inline chat language translation, and the ability to use Cortana speech commands to do things like start a conference call with multiple participants without using "57 keystrokes".
Microsoft could hardly have made clearer: For communications, Microsoft Teams is the future. I really enjoyed connecting with customers, partners & friends in a smaller event that included other communication players & perspectives!
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