Microsoft offers premium preview for commercial customer teams
Microsoft has announced a hands-on preview for business customers of its new Teams Premium product designed to make meetings more personal, smart and secure.
The premium product includes several nifty features, such as:
- Using artificial intelligence to provide live translation and smart meeting recaps with auto-generated chapters and suggested action items and ideas;
- Advanced protections with the use of watermarks, end-to-end encryption and sensitivity labels to block copy-paste of chat sessions;
- Tools to create and manage high-quality webinars;
- A virtual dating dashboard to control the end-to-end virtual dating experience; and
- Ability to extend a company’s image across meetings with branded backdrops.
“This is an opportunity for Microsoft to unlock monetization opportunities beyond Microsoft 365,” observed Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology consultancy in New York.
“You’ll get a basic level of functionality, but there will be more functionality at a higher price point,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld.
Race for AI solutions
AI features do several things that are not done in meetings, such as providing maps, notes and translations to their audience, observed Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of Enderle Group, a services company. board in Bend, Ore.
“I expect this AI component to be the defining difference between platforms in the future,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Powerful conferencing solutions seem to be racing to see who can deliver the most powerful AI-based solutions.”
Intelligent Recap shows great promise for helping organizations get the most out of meetings, said JP Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, a national market research firm.
“Too often, follow-ups and action items are forgotten after a meeting,” Gownder told TechNewsWorld. “People who missed the meeting have a hard time discovering the value of the meeting.”
“Intelligent Recap promises to automate the process of extracting follow-ups, action items, and meeting content,” he continued. “It will take some time to learn from real-world meetings, but it promises to increase the value of meetings and tie them to business actions.”
More effective meetings
In some ways, the new tools in Teams Premium make virtual meetings more efficient than in-person meetings, noted Michael Inouye, principal analyst at ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm.
“By more efficient, I mean making it easier and simpler to access information from past meetings and manage follow-ups,” Inouye told TechNewsWorld.
He explained that in an in-person meeting, any whiteboard work might not show up in the meeting notes. Likewise, note-taking is often not shared among participants or may be idiosyncratic to an individual’s note-taking style.
“Creating chapters and tagging recorded meetings makes searching through archives much more efficient,” he continued. “Rather than trying to remember when a particular meeting took place by checking your notes, you can search for the topic you are interested in or other information.”
“These tools could also benefit in-person meetings, as those conversations could be recorded and handled in the same way, so it’s not exclusive to virtual,” he added.
Too good for Paywall
Teams Premium’s new security features also drew praise. “Security enhancements like copy/paste control and E2E encryption for groups are all great,” said Forrester analyst Will McKeon-White.
However, he questioned limiting features to a premium offering. “It’s weird that these are partitioned outside of the standard Teams platform,” he told TechNewsWorld.
McKeon-White also received kudos for adding the Teams Premium webinar. “The webinar offering is critical from a competitive perspective and will help organizations further consolidate on a single offering,” he said.
While praising the product’s translation functionality, he also lamented its limitations. “Live translation will transform the way organizations communicate,” he predicted. “It’s a shame to see this change inside a paywall.”
One Teams Premium feature that seems to get mixed reviews is its branding feature.
“I find the brand-driven features to be exciting and potentially differentiating from Zoom and Cisco’s solutions,” observed Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.
“It looks like Microsoft is moving towards a more personalized experience with the Premium version of Teams, which I think will be helpful,” Vena told TechNewsWorld.
“The ability to create a more personalized experience will be appreciated by some users, and I think the ability to add your branding will be appreciated by users creating video podcasts or hosting webinars,” he said.
Ahead of its time
While an interesting idea, the brand extension feature can be problematic, Enderle asserted. “Using a tool like this to move a brand forward requires marketing to have a say in the outcome, which doesn’t seem to be the case here,” he said.
“It would be like providing a medical tool without medical supervision,” he explained. “I don’t think you can build branded functionality without deeply integrating marketing into the resulting process. That is not the case here. »
Branding is generally not prioritized in virtual communication and collaboration types, Inouye added. “Further down the road, if virtual C&C becomes more immersive or more generally ubiquitous, then I could see it becoming more valuable,” he noted.
“This one is maybe a little ahead of its time,” he continued. “Not bad, but it probably won’t be a key selling point.”
Inouye argued that Teams Premium should help Microsoft position itself in the communication and collaboration market. However, he added, “It’s hard to say whether this will change the competitive landscape significantly, at least not yet.”
“Companies have reduced virtual events, which means a business may see less value from a more integrated solution,” he explained. “Going with a third party for a handful of events can be an equally good alternative to the more integrated solution.”
word of warning
Vena claimed that Microsoft is catching up in the video conferencing space as Zoom has become the market leader during the pandemic, by focusing on ease of use.
“But Zoom continues to have detractors for security issues, and Microsoft has a perceived advantage when it comes to privacy,” he said. “This new solution should move the ball forward in increasing the appeal of Teams, especially to enterprise and SMB users.”
McKeon-White added that all of the improvements make sense and add value to the Teams platform. “My biggest issue with Microsoft’s approach here is partitioning them behind a paywall,” he observed.
“Anytime AI/ML functionality is partitioned off a platform, it provides an opening for competitors,” he said.
There’s a lot to love about this rollout as Microsoft continues to evolve its AI to deliver more useful features, noted Wayne Kurtzman, research vice president for collaboration and communities at IDC, a global engineering company. ‘marketing studies.
However, he warned, “Microsoft will need to add more benefits to retain the Premium value, as some of its competitors may include some of these features in their base product. This market, despite economic headwinds, is likely to maintain a high speed of feature innovation.
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