The line is blurring between Microsoft Teams and actual phone calls

Your Microsoft Teams calls are set to see a significant boost thanks to a partnership between the company and some of the world's leading mobile operators.

The software giant has announced the launch of Operator Connect Mobile, a new service that will utilize the network footprint of existing operators to make sure Microsoft Teams Phone calls are more reliable and flexible than ever before.

Among other things, the new launch means that users can have a single business-provided number for mobile, desk, and Microsoft Teams, allowing them to work flexibly and securely from any location, device, or network.

Microsoft Teams Phone boost

Microsoft has signed up the likes of BT, Verizon, Swisscom, Telia and Rogers to support the launch later in 2022, providing what it calls “true fixed-mobile convergence”.

This should mean that mobile calls can be prioritized on the cellular voice network or internet connection for better call continuity and quality of service, with users also able to seamlessly move between devices and Teams endpoints without dropping calls.

An expansion on the company's hugely successful online collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams Phone combines VoIP and video conferencing services to allow users to make and receive phone calls within the software.

The platform styles itself as an all-in-one app that enables rich, reliable, and secure calling, offering services such as conferencing, do not disturb, reverse number lookup, voicemail, and delegation functionality.

The company claims that Microsoft Teams Phone has around 80 million active users across the globe, helping narrow the gap between home and office as more organizations embrace hybrid working.

It now hopes that Operator Connect Mobile will help grow this number, allowing organizations to combine their user's mobile identities with the existing Microsoft Teams and Office 365 cloud tools.

“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for true fixed-mobile convergence,” Microsoft noted in a blog post announcing the news. ” Operator Connect mobile is a first-of-its-kind fixed-mobile convergence that’s intuitive, device agnostic, and enterprise compliant.”

“Operator Connect Mobile enables new opportunities for flexibility, efficiency, security, and compliance, which is particularly relevant in the new hybrid workplace. And as we continue to expand the functionality, the lines between voice calls and meetings, mobile and Wi-Fi networks, mobile and desktop devices, and office and field settings will continue to blur. This is the promise of organizational mobility, and it’s made possible with Operator Connect Mobile.”

Microsoft Teams continues to go from strength to strength, with the latest figures from the company showing that the service now boasts over 270 million monthly active users.

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Universal Control blasts open the door between Mac and iPad for an eye-opening experience

Are macOS and iPadOS becoming one? Not exactly, but the arrival of Universal Control on iPad OS 15.4 Beta and macOS Monterey 12.3 Beta pierces the thinning barrier between the two.

The update, which may take weeks to arrive for general download, connects a Mac and iPad and creates an open road for your cursor to travel from one interface to the other without breaking a sweat.

There are some small hoops to jump through, like signing in to all the devices with the same Apple ID and verifying that you want to connect these systems, but you only do that once. After that, Universal Control gives you a double-wide desktop, albeit one with some significant limitations.

Universal Control

Both systems, the iPad and MacBook appear in the display settings. (Image credit: Future)

Universal Control might remind some of Apple’s Sidecar for macOS, which Apple introduced a few years ago. It’s similar but less of a two-way street than Universal Control. It extended the Mac desktop onto the iPad, which more or less put the iPadOS to sleep in the background. It was a bit more than that, though, in that you could use your finger on the iPad like a mouse and, if you had an Apple Pencil, use it to draw on some macOS apps much in the same way you would on an iPad.

After I installed the latest development betas and set up my iPad Pro 12.9 and MacBook Air M1 with the Universal Control, I found I could instantly move my cursor on the Mac to the left, see a little control bar appear along the edge of my iPad display (it appears only upon the initial connection), and slip right through the ether to the iPad screen. After that, the door is more a less open for dual-platform operations. I can even grab, say, an image and drag it from the Photo app on the Mac into Procreate running on the iPad. I could not, however, drag and drop images from my Mac desktop into a Mail window open on the iPad. They would drag to the screen, but then disappear instead of appearing in the message.

There’s still the ability to extend or mirror your Mac display onto the iPad, though it’s hidden under Advanced settings. This offers the added benefit of being able to drag over complete application windows from one screen to the other. When I use Universal Control to move my mouse between platforms, it puts the iPad to the left of my Mac. Switching to screen extension expands the Mac display on the opposite side.

Universal Control

Some of the settings to control how much dual screen interaction you get through Universal Control. (Image credit: Future)

Screen extension also turned off the iPad’s Magic Keyboard trackpad but, like Sidecar, it still lets me use the Apple Pencil. I can even enable the Pencil’s double tap in the settings.

In Universal Control’s “Linked Keyboard and Mouse Mode” I can also use the keyboard on the Mac to take notes on Note on the iPad, while also using the same keyboard to take notes in another instance of Notes on the Mac. That’s an instant doubling of my productivity power. I can do it in reverse, as well, using the iPad's Magic Keyboard to type on either screen.

Universal Control

Universal Control in action (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The ability to connect the two disparate OSes and use one keyboard and mouse to control all of it is, as some have noted, magical. It’s also still limited. Until I can drag complete windows and Mac or iPad Apps from one screen to the other, this universe will still feel relatively small.

It’s early days, of course. The beta’s not done, and Apple may refine and add some features before it arrives as a fully baked set of updates.

Ever since Apple started positioning the iPad as a productivity tool and not simply a content consumption device, it’s been transforming iPadOS – like adding mouse and trackpad support – to better support that notion.

Universal Control is another exciting, big step in a long-term effort to make the marriage between iPad OS and macOS seamless.

 Will they ever become one platform? I think it’s still too soon to tell.

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MusicMatch makes it easy to share music between streaming services

If you've ever felt frustrated trying to open a shared link from a music streaming service you don't use, you're not alone. But sharing the next best Holly Humberstone song doesn't have to be difficult. A new app, launching today (December 12), is making it easier than ever to share and play your favorite tracks.

MusicMatch, developed by Patrick Hardy and Arthur Van Siclen, is a free app now available on iPhones running iOS 15. The app allows music lovers to open shared song links in either Spotify or Apple Music within the app. You can also play song links utilizing a Safari extension, without opening the MusicMatch app.

While the app sounds simple enough, we spoke to Hardy and Van Siclen to find out what motivated them to develop MusicMatch. Here's what we know about this new music app.

How to use MusicMatch

MusicMatch is free in the App store and available to download for devices running iOS 15. Copy your song, album, or artist link to your clipboard and then open the MusicMatch app. Select where the link will open, whether Apple Music or Spotify.

A Safari extension will provide the same convenience, but within the Safari web browser. To enable this, go to Settings > Safari > Extensions > MusicMatch > Enable All Websites > Enable MusicMatch.

MusicMatch on iOS 15

(Image credit: MusicMatch)

At this time, only links from Spotify that open in Apple Music will work with the Safari extension, but Hardy and Van Siclen are working on making Apple Music links work in Spotify on the web browser as well.

Where does MusicMatch fit on iOS?

As far as creating the app, Van Siclen handled the design and development of MusicMatch while Hardy focused on the integration of Spotify, Apple Music, and the Safari extension.

We asked them why they created the app in the first place.

“I’ve clicked so many Spotify links, found the song or artist name, then searched on Apple Music so many times. Every day.” Van Siclen explains.” Every time someone sends me a link I have to go through those steps. It’s onerous. I’m almost mad thinking about it now.” 

“Arthur and I have been sharing music with each other for years, but Arthur has always been on Apple Music and I've always preferred Spotify. We would go through the process looking up a track on the other's service then searching for that same content on another platform.” Hardy continues. “When Apple announced that Safari Extensions would be available on iOS 15, we realized that there was a pathway to make this process painless and automatic. We knew the pain first hand and were sure it would be useful to a lot of people who share music with their friends.”

MusicMatch iOS 15

(Image credit: MusicMatch)

While the app is a simple way of opening a music link, the two developers also discovered Safari Extensions on iOS 15 as another use-case for MusicMatch.

“When we heard about Safari Extensions coming to iOS we quickly identified this as an opportunity to solve this problem once and for all.” Van Siclen continues. “We made the Safari Extension, but understanding that extensions are kind of an esoteric, “pro” thing to set up, we decided to make the app fully functional itself. That was a good decision – my mom was able to use the app the first time she needed it.”

To macOS and beyond?

It’s only the first day of the app’s launch, but Hardy and Van Siclen aren’t stopping there. As you will see music links shared to you on other devices such as a Mac, there’s plenty of use cases where MusicMatch can help.

“Yes, we architected the app with cross-platform applications in mind,” Hardy explains. “We would love for MusicMatch to solve this problem no matter where customers are at. Our iOS app is just the start.” 

“MusicMatch will soon come to macOS as both an app and Safari Extension. It is built with SwiftUI and has great access to Apple’s modern cross-platform infrastructure.” Van Siclen adds.

Safari 15 in macOS 12 Monterey

(Image credit: Apple)

But if you only have an iPhone, the two devs have plans for a future update on iOS.

“We’re also excited to add support for Tidal, YouTube Music, Pandora, and the other popular streaming services.” Van Siclen continues. “The key goal we identified is to be reliable, so for the first few updates we are focused on ensuring MusicMatch does its job flawlessly for everyone.”

Finally, we wanted to know if Hardy and Van Siclen were big music users on iOS.

“Yes! I listen to jazz, and when we work together, we put on London Grammar, Javiera Mena, Kamasi Washington, and a lot of cross-genre artists.” Van Siclen explains.

“Music has always played an important role in our lives.” Hardy adds. “Sharing music that's inspiring, songs to practice on the guitar, or artists to learn from has always been at the core of a rich and connected life for us.”

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