Microsoft is willing to sacrifice Teams in Windows 11 – and I’m OK with that

It looks like Microsoft is in trouble again with European Union regulators over anti-competitive practices, and it could sacrifice Teams in Windows 11 to avoid any conflicts.

While I don’t usually applaud companies for removing features from their products, in this case it would be a good move.

Let’s be honest: Windows 11 has a bloat problem, with Microsoft filling it with apps and services that most people don’t use, but can’t be easily removed from the device the operating system is running on.

Teams is one of those. While Microsoft Teams is an app that’s used by businesses for communication between team members (hence the name), Microsoft also wanted to inflict it on regular users of Windows 11 as well, so built it into the operating system as the Chat app.

However, despite Microsoft bundling in Teams via the Chat app, it never properly took off. Most people use the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp for instant messaging these days. That wouldn’t be much of an issue, but not only is Chat pre-installed in Windows 11, you can’t uninstall it. Add it to the list of other apps you don’t want to use but are installed anyway, and Windows 11 can start feeling rather bloated.

Right move, wrong reasons

However, as Windows Latest reports, it looks like Microsoft may be considering adding the ability to remove Chat in an upcoming version of Windows 11, with references to “RemoveChat” in early Windows 11 preview builds.

When enabled, this seems to allow users to completely remove Chat from their system, rather than simply hiding it.

This would be a good move for people who want to keep their PCs organized and tidy, without any unused apps clogging things up.

However, it doesn’t seem like Microsoft is doing this voluntarily. As Windows Latest points out, the EU is keeping a close eye on Microsoft and how it combines its products like Office and Teams with Windows 11, which could give those products an unfair advantage over rivals.

Adding an option to fully remove Chat could avoid those accusations, while also allowing Microsoft to still preinstall it.

Interestingly, the RemoveChat option appears to be linked to geographical data, which suggests this might only be available to users in certain regions – such as the European Union.

If that’s the case, then it looks like Microsoft is determined to do the absolute minimum so that it can avoid any fines from the EU, but still trying to make Chat popular with users.

This is frustrating, as while Windows 11 is a decent enough operating system, Microsoft continues to add apps and services, or adverts for those apps and services, to the OS, regardless of whether users want them or not.

By doing this, and not allowing users to remove the apps or adverts, many people – myself included – have increasingly felt like Microsoft has been pushing its luck, and been a bit too aggressive when trying to get us to use its products.

So, while I certainly would welcome this move, I can’t say I’m too thrilled about Microsoft’s seeming reluctance to give its customers more freedom at the expense of its own commercial ambitions.

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Google Meet thinks it might finally be able to topple Microsoft Teams at last

Google is looking to up its game in the video conferencing space with the launch of several new AI-powered tools and services.

The company has revealed that Google Meet is getting some new AI boosts, aimed at making it a core part of your everyday working life, but also one that reflects you.

Revealed at Google I/O 2023, the tools use the newly-announced Duet AI for Google Workspace platform to allow users to generate their own customized virtual backgrounds based on text descriptions, opening up a whole world of possibilities.

Google Meet Duet AI

Google had hinted at plans for generative AI backgrounds in Meet earlier this year as part of its big Workspace AI push, but this marks the first time we've seen the technology in action.

In a demo at Google I/O, the company was able to demonstrate how just a few words could generate detailed backgrounds that let users show off a bit more personality whilst on a call. The company also mentioned potential examples such as a salesperson tailoring their background depending on which prospective client they are meeting with, or a manager celebrating the employee of the month with a personalized background of their favorite things in a team call.

Google Meet duet ai

(Image credit: Google)

“It's a subtle, personal touch to show you care about the people you're connecting with and what's important to them,” a Google blog post announcing the changes noted.

Duet AI is already a central background presence across Google Workspace, working in the background to assist on tasks such as writing Gmail messages or giving you prompts in Google Docs.

Along with Meet, the system is also be geared up for use across other key Google Workspace services such as Slides and Sheets as the company looks to make all your working tools smarter and more intuitive.

Opinion – enough to triumph over Microsoft Teams?

AI is everywhere in the software world right now, as companies of all sizes scramble to include the technology in their processes and platforms.

Video conferencing should be an ideal place for AI to make a real impact, boosting signal strength and call quality. But personalization is also another way for this new era of technology to make a difference. Now we're all used to video calls, making them more bearable is the next step, and customized backgrounds could be a small step towards that.

Just days after Microsoft Teams announced a whole host of new virtual backgrounds aimed at enhancing collaboration and productivity, including collections aimed at boosting mental health, Google Meet will be hoping its generative AI offering will be enough to capture user's attention.

In the end, it remains to be seen – do you want your workplace calls to be unique, special and customized – or keeping to some veneer of professionalism?

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Microsoft Teams is going to use green screen technology to make your video calls better

Scratchy, low quality virtual backgrounds have been a staple of video conferences at work since the Covid-19 pandemic began, but, from April 2023, Microsoft Teams will have a solution, in the form of green screen support.

Artificial intelligence is at the point where software such as NVIDIA Broadcast and Google Meet can support virtual backgrounds and blur effects without any additional software or hardware, but for maximum quality, a green screen works wonders.

How? In the Microsoft 365 roadmap listing for the planned feature, Microsoft says that “Green screen improves the sharpness and definition of the virtual background effect around your face, head, ears, and hair. It also allows you to show a prop or other object in your hand to be more visible to other participants in a call.” 

Teams green screen

Having a real, physical green screen behind you during your 9-5 is slightly more embarrassing than pretending you’re at the beach or a revolting strawberry, but there’s a good reason you might want to invest in one when the feature rolls out.

“The virtual background with a green screen,” Microsoft goes on to say, “provides the best virtual background effect, consuming fewer system resources, allowing your Teams to run smoother.”

If your mobile workstation or business laptop is low-spec, and you’ve been having trouble getting virtual backgrounds on Teams to work well, a green screen could be the best way to get in on this often strange and terrifying feature.

And if you’re really looking to terrify (and terrorize) your colleagues on Teams, you could go one worse and set up a metaverse-style avatar.

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Microsoft Teams will finally be a lot easier to use on iPad and iPhone

Apple users are set to get a welcome productivity boost when it comes to using Microsoft Teams on their mobile or tablet device.

The video conferencing platform has revealed it is working on bringing Picture in Picture mode to iPhone and iPad users, letting them view multiple windows at once on their device.

This could mean users are able to carry out a video call on their device whilst consulting a useful document or presentation at the same time, without the need to switch between apps and potentially drop their call.

Microsoft Teams Picture in Picture for iOS

In the official Microsoft 365 roadmap entry for the update, the company notes that, “the new Picture in Picture mode lets you see your meeting in an adjustable window while using other apps on your mobile device.”

The feature is still listed as being “in development”, but has an expected availability date of December 2022, meaning users shouldn't have too long to wait. When released, it will be available to all iOS users of Microsoft Teams across the globe.

The launch is the latest in a series of productivity-themed releases from Microsoft Teams as it continues to try and boost the usability and efficiency of its platform.

This includes a number of under-the-hood speed-related upgrades aimed at improving the user experience when navigating around Microsoft Teams, namely an upgraded framework which is now able to render HTML trees faster, run JavaScript and serialize arrays more efficiently. 

The company claims that these changes should contribute to a 30% speed increase when switching between Microsoft Teams chats or channels.

In other multi-tasking news, the company also recently announced that in-app games are coming to Microsoft Teams

However, far from just being a distraction, Microsoft claims that interaction through play is designed to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the hybrid workplace, including “struggling to build trust, create connections, and improve team morale.”

It also recently revealed that transcription for 1:1 calls and group calls is now available on the Microsoft Teams app for Android, giving users the chance to review exactly what was said, or if any details were missed. 

Users will also be able to start transcription for meetings on Microsoft Teams for iOS and Android, as well as being able to view the meeting transcripts after their calls have finished.

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Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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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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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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Microsoft Teams may just help you get out of that dull work meeting

Sitting through another unnecessary Microsoft Teams call may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new addition to the service.

Microsoft has revealed it is working on a feature for its video conferencing tool that will allow users to adapt their Microsoft Teams status ahead of proposed meetings.

The feature should mean that users will be able to flag when they are free for a Microsoft Teams meeting, or alternately when they are too busy to attend, or are out of the office.

Microsoft Teams Calendar update

In the official Microsoft 365 roadmap entry for the new feature, officially titled, “Microsoft Teams: Calendar Show As in meetings”, Microsoft explains how it could benefit users with packed schedules.

The company notes how it would allow both organizers and participants of a Microsoft Teams meeting to choose a “Calendar Show As” status to reflect their availability, with options including free, busy or OOF. 

Organizers will also be able to select private meeting functionality, which will allow users to hide meeting details from other users when their calendar is shared.

The feature is still listed as in development for now, with Microsoft estimating a general release date in June 2022. The company says that, when available, the addition will be provided to all PC and Mac users.

The update is the latest in a series of features introduced by Microsoft in an attempt to make hybrid working and online collaboration less painful for users across the globe.

The company recently revealed a separate update entitled “working hours and location” will allow users to set a notice showing where they are working, whether that be at home, in the office, or anywhere else in particular, giving managers more visibility on where their key employees are.

Users of its Outlook email service will also be able to display a second calendar type, with the company noting that users will have “a variety of global calendars” to choose from, including the likes of the Chinese lunar calendar, Indian calendar and the Islamic calendar will soon be available as options within Outlook, so certain holidays or observances are not missed.

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