In the long-awaited year 2021 Microsoft introduced several new features to the Teams application for PC and to the web app. There have been new additions to the meeting rooms, calling options, chats, as well as some department-specific updates. In this article we will run through some of the most important new enhancements in Microsoft Teams in 2021 and discuss what’s there to expect in the nearest future.
Meetings and calls
Improved calling experience
Microsoft has redesigned the calling features available in the Microsoft Teams service. The new calling interface now displays contacts, voicemail, and call history in one place. Microsoft Teams can be now used as a replacement for the phone. The app has also added built-in spam call protection, reverse number lookup, and call merging capabilities.
Microsoft Teams users will also soon be able to redirect calls between their mobile device and their desktop computer. This will allow people to change the location of the call without stopping the call itself (audio or video). The app will allow people to join without sound on an additional device or transfer the call and end it automatically on other devices. Microsoft claims that this feature will be available in early 2021.
For those users who regularly record meetings in Microsoft Teams, there are also some new features. It will now be possible to record meetings in SharePoint or OneDrive, not limited to the Microsoft Stream service. It will also make it easier to share calls or transcripts with people outside the Teams organization.
Virtual Breakout Rooms
Breakout rooms are a subsection in meetings in Microsoft Teams. The administrator can divide the conference participants into subgroups and return them back to the main video conference in one click. This feature will be useful for teachers – they will be able to divide students into groups to brainstorm with individual meeting participants within a large company. Such rooms can be both on Microsoft Teams channels and in online meetings.
Together mode helps users pretend that the participants are physically located in the same place. Segmentation technology based on artificial intelligence moves the participant’s avatar to the general background, new backgrounds will appear. For example, it will be possible to add a special background: a conference room, a school classroom, an auditorium at a university, and much more.
Finally, Microsoft has added CarPlay support for Microsoft Teams. This will allow controlling Teams while driving cars with built-in CarPlay support. Users will also be able to use Siri to initiate or answer calls.
Chats and collaboration
Queue messages being offline
Ever find yourself in a situation where you temporarily don’t have access to mobile data or WIFI? And you have something important to share with your colleagues? Especially when it is something you know you might forget to do later when you are back online. Here is where the new Microsoft Teams update comes in handy. You are now able to queue messages and Teams will automatically send them once you have connected to network again.
Chat bubbles in Teams meetings
This is a feature that was already present in Teams. However, the new update refers to an even easier way to receive chat messages during the meetings. This new feature makes chat more central to the discussion and enables more engagement in the meeting.
Access files offline on IOS devices
Here is another Microsoft update for those who constantly find themselves with a weak or without network connection. Similar to our beloved music services, Microsoft Teams now allows to select the files you want to have access to and keep a downloaded version in the mobile app. This feature is great for tablet users who are travelling, or those who want to cut down on mobile data expenses.
OneNote notification to Teams
Microsoft added a small but for many a significant enhancement to the OneNote app for Microsoft Teams. Students and educators now have an option to turn on notifications for when they distribute a new Class Notebook page. This function will help stay up to date with the latest lecture material.
What to expect in the future?
In March 2021, Microsoft Teams plans to release an update, which should significantly improve the service with a group of participants, and expand the functionality to show presentations.
First of all, Microsoft reported an innovation called Dynamic View. This feature will allow presentations to show video clips, slides, or images in high quality. During this online presentation, there will be changes in the program interface. The main space will show the content, while the right side of the screen will contain the participants’ thumbnails. Such a solution will definitely be great for owners of their own business. It will help holding conferences with the demonstration of graphs, reports and other important information.
After the update Microsoft Teams will distinguish active speakers. Other conference participants will be able to signal other users about their wish to express their opinion on the discussed topic. Thus, the company wants to avoid unpleasant situations when during a heated discussion people interrupt each other. Microsoft Teams is currently the only service that implements this functionality, while its competitors do not have this feature.
Despite the shift of Teams in the ranking of video conferencing services, the number of active users of Teams is increasing. The Verge publication noted that over the past year, this figure reached 115,000,000 people. With all of the new features that 2021 expects, it seems like this number will be growing further.