This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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Huawei could be forced to use Snapdragon chipsets

Huawei has been dragged in the dirty tug-of-war that has been going on since some time between both the US and the Chinese governments. The Trump Administration has time and again introduced sanctions making it difficult for the Chinese company to work with American companies.

Continuing its clampdown on Huawei further, the U.S. Commerce Department introduced a new export rule mandating all the chipmaker companies, who plan to supply components to Huawei, to apply for an additional license thus controlling the crucial supply chain of the Chinese company.

This sanction means that Huawei cannot get its HiSilicon chipsets made by chip-making TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). For the uninitiated, TSMC is the world’s largest contract chipmaker that makes chipsets on contract for companies like Apple, Huawei, Qualcomm and MediaTek etc.

No more HiSilicon SoCs on Huawei phones?

As per this report, TSMC will not be allowed to ship chipsets to Huawei after September 14 which leaves Huawei with only enough time to procure the new 5nm HiSilicon Kirin SoCs for its next flagship smartphone Mate 40.

Since it will be up to the U.S. Government to permit TSMC or any other company to supply components to the Chinese smartphone maker, it leaves Huawei in a fix as the company may not be able to source enough SoCs for the phones that are scheduled to launch in 2021. The company is scheduled to release phones like the P50 and Mate 50 series as well as all other phones for Huawei and its sub-brand Honor. Hence it may be forced to look for an alternate

In a bid to reduce its dependency on TSMC, Huawei has proactively started working with another Taiwanese company MediaTek that is known for making chipsets for budget and entry-level smartphones and has a capacity to produce 5G chipsets even for cheaper phones.

Some rumours suggest that Huawei may try to scout chipsets from TSMC indirectly using its newfound ally, MediaTek. However, there is always a fear that the Trump administration may come up with another ruling to tap this workaround.

Apart from MediaTek, Huawei is also said to be working with a relatively lesser-known company -SMIC. Despite being China’s biggest foundry, SMIC does not have the required technology to make advanced 5nm chipsets. It is still said to be struggling to come up with the 7nm and 8nm process due to the unavailability of required equipment.

Hence the only company left that is both capable and has the requisite technology ready to manufacture and supply flagship-grade SoC’s to Huawei is Qualcomm.

Will Trump govt allow Qualcomm to supply chips to Huawei?

Like any other company, even Qualcomm will have to follow the licensing route to supply chipsets to Huawei, however, it is quite likely that the US-based chipmaker may get the nod to do so. Interestingly, even Qualcomm’s chipsets are manufactured by TSMC.

Allowing Qualcomm to supply chipsets to Huawei may have multiple benefits. Since Huawei is a huge company and despite all the clampdowns it still sells a lot of smartphones, partnering with it means a huge economical gain for any company.

Secondly, Qualcomm holds a major chunk of the chipset market and this deal could only strengthen its position against its competitor brands like MediaTek.

Lastly, working with Huawei may allow US companies to gain in terms of technology transfer as Huawei is still a global leader in terms of 5G technology. Even the Pentagon had once countered the Trump Administration’s decision to put additional blocks on Huawei by stating that the money received from selling components to Huawei could allow the US companies to invest in critical functions like R&D.

However, it will have to be seen if Huawei wants to work with a US company like Qualcomm since it has been trying to distance itself from American companies and wants to overcome these sanctions on its own conditions.

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