Microsoft takes on Slack with new Teams Connect feature

The firm has unveiled a slew of collaboration-focused Teams updates and hardware for the hybrid workforce

Microsoft Teams Presenter Mode

Microsoft has announced a breadth of new capabilities for Microsoft Teams, including a cross-organisation channel sharing feature that's uncannily similar to a service recently launched by Slack. 

The updates to Teams include various new modes for presenters, with Microsoft also showcasing new hardware dedicated to the video conferencing service. 

Of all the new functions announced at Ignite, 'Microsoft Teams Connect' is the one that many further the flames of the company's heated rivalry with Slack. The service, which lets users share channels with both internal and external collaborators, seems to have almost the same word-for-word description as 'Slack Connect'.  

Slack has previously called out Microsoft for copying its work and recently filed an antitrust complaint with European Commission over Microsoft's "anti-competitive" conduct.

Beyond Connect, the most eye-catching update is the ability to create interactive webinars - for internal or external purposes - that can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees. This includes a number of presentation options and host controls, such as the ability to disable attendee chat and video, and post-event reporting.

What's more, until the end of 2021, the webinars can be switched to a 'view-only' broadcast of up to 20,000 people in order to accommodate higher demand for virtual events. The same capabilities have been available for general meetings on Teams since August

Microsoft has also made steps to alleviate stress and video call fatigue with new functions for speakers. These are aimed at creating more impactful, dynamic presentations but also at keeping a more 'natural' connection with the participants. Presenters will be able to use 'Microsoft PowerPoint Live' which will enable hosts to deliver more engaging presentations with notes, slides, meeting chat, and participants all in a single view. 

There is also a dedicated 'Presenter mode' that allows hosts to customise how their video feed and content appears to the audience. These include Standout and Reporter modes that put the host's video feed in different positions to visual aids or content. All three will launch in the coming months along with new Teams-focused hardware, such as 'Intelligent Speakers' that can identify and differentiate up to 10 people talking in a Microsoft Teams Room. 

Microsoft's 'Intelligent Speaker'

On the hardware front, there's also Microsoft Teams-certified video conferencing monitors from Dell and Poly 21, a new P15 video bar from Poly, and a new Cam 130 by Aver that allows users to present their best selves in lighted video meetings. 

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