Last week, Microsoft kicked off its annual partner event, Inspire, with the 2020 twist of being all virtual. I covered Microsoft’s initiative to safely and efficiently bring businesses, schools, and organizations back onto the workforce here. While I mentioned some of the new features like Dataflex and Return To Work Power Platform Templates in that article, I want to give more thoughts and coverage on what Microsoft announced with Microsoft 365 and the new Edge browser.
Microsoft Teams: bring a third-part app or “develop” one yourself
Microsoft has spent a considerable amount of time working on improving its Teams messaging and collaboration solution. Microsoft’s primary drive to transform Teams is to make it the central hub for all collaboration, messaging, and “team” work platform. This drive has all been a part of Microsoft rebranding and transforming Microsoft Office 365 into Microsoft 365. Earlier in the year, at Microsoft’s Build conference, it announced the integration of Microsoft’s Power platform into Teams.
Microsoft has added onto the Power platform in Teams with Microsoft Dataflex. Dataflex is a built-in low code data platform for Teams that brings relational data and rich data types, enterprise-grade governance, and one-click solution deployment to the forefront of Teams with the Power platform. In the digital business age, being able to decipher an uncanny amount of data is going to be incredibly important for enterprise solutions, and having it in the in-your-face collaboration platform Teams will be all the more useful.
Along with the Power platform’s ability to create apps without the need for development, Microsoft Teams now allows developers and independent software vendors to integrate apps and services directly into Teams. I think this feature is great for Microsoft Teams, and alongside its Power platform, differentiates it from other collaboration and messaging tools. Playing well with third-party apps and services gives Teams a couple of differentiating factors compared to other collaboration tools. It puts the focus of collaboration at the center of Teams. Teams then becomes the one platform for all of your team’s services to play friendly. This feature is not a feature that all business suites have, and I commend Microsoft Teams for having a platform that welcomes third-party apps and lets you build one with Power platform if you don’t have one.
Microsoft has also enhanced its management capabilities with new device management and monitoring options. It is now easier for partners and IT admins to deploy and manage a fleet of devices. Microsoft has included Teams Rooms Standard and Teams Rooms Premium. Teams Standard lets users manage Microsoft Teams Room devices in the Team Admin Center— a new management offering for Teams Rooms. The difference between the two is the Premium offering gives customers access to intelligent software, dedicated experts, and enhanced insights, and takes away the need for managing a room because Microsoft does it for you.
At Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced a new app for Microsoft 365, Microsoft Lists. Microsoft Lists reminds me of Notion in that it organizes lists in various ways with multiple categories. However, I think both solutions differ in good ways. Notion holds its front in the mobile space, while Microsoft first markets Lists and focuses on business collaboration and tidiness. Lists is beginning to roll out its web app with integration into Teams next month. Microsoft is also saying an iOS app is expected by the end of the year with Android support unannounced.
Microsoft also announced Universal Print going into public preview. Universal Print is a printing solution that makes it easier for the user and the IT professionals to manage the printing. Universal Print unblocks the move to the cloud and has support for Azure AD users and works with zero-trust networks with a centralized portal for robust management capabilities. One of the driving factors with Universal Print is having partners. Microsoft has partnered with leading print service solutions like Brother, Canon, HP, Kofax, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, NT-ware, PaperCut, Pharos, Ringdale, and Y Soft. Public Print has more than 2,500 customers testing and has been a catalyst for employees and teaching who are WFH.
New Edge browser features
The first big announcement for the Microsoft Edge browser is its joining of FastTrack Ready Partner program. I have been impressed with the execution of Microsoft Edge within the past year. The Edge browser had a solid launch last year, I have been all-Edge since January, and it has only been getting better exponentially.
FastTrack Partner program, which helps customers adopt Microsoft solutions for a full cloud experience, is all the more reason to adopt the Edge browser. Browsers are a business solution that has sticky qualities. For those companies that are still using Internet Explorer know exactly what I’m talking about. I think Microsoft’s FastTrack Partner programming is exciting news for the Edge browser.
Microsoft also brought out into public preview another great reason for businesses to adopt the Edge browser, its Endpoint Data Loss Protection (DLP). Endpoint DLP addresses the regulation and privacy of a user’s browsers and mitigates data leakage when using the Edge browser on Windows 10. Microsoft’s Edge browser is one of the few browsers to have this feature integrated and eliminates the need for a third-party add-in or browser extension. In a time where businesses are moving digitally into the cloud, and we are experiencing the wild-wild west of the world wide web, Endpoint DLP integration into your browser is critical for business.
To prove the point that the Microsoft Edge browser holds data protection to the highest regard, Microsoft Edge rated higher in phishing and malware protection in two separate studies done by NSS Labs. The Edge browser went against Google’s Chrome browser, arguably the most popular browser, Firefox, and Opera, both being known for its security and privacy capabilities. I find it incredible that the Edge browser went from being picked last in dodgeball to being one of the heaviest hitters in data privacy and protection. While security and privacy are a constantly moving ball, the DLP is a good sign that the company will chase that ball.
New features coming to the Edge browser
Like many of Microsoft’s services, the Edge browser is making it easier to transition to and from work and personal accounts. Microsoft’s Edge browser now has a new feature that automatically switches between work and personal accounts. The Edge browser distinguishes between work links so that logging in and switching accounts. Microsoft says the feature is available now and is in the profile settings.
Microsoft has also brought Collections to the mobile browser, a feature that allows users to save and pin links and content into one “collection.” At Microsoft Build, it announced a partnership with Pinterest to add suggestions and import Collections content to Pinterest. I enjoy using Collections on my desktop browser, and I think having it on the mobile platform will make it even more of a success, especially for those who use Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft also added the ability to stick notes on content in Collections. I think this is a great feature for users who use Collections frequently and have content scattered in Collections. It will be great for putting down reminders on why you added that content and for putting thoughts down to remember about that collection.
Microsoft has also added the ability to read off PDF files as well as improved the editing of PDF files in the Edge browser. I think these improvements are significant for the Edge browser. Microsoft says that 60% of the time people spend on the PC is within the web browser. Often when solutions have multiple features that can be put on the back burner and I am glad Microsoft is not doing that with PDF content. The Microsoft Edge browser can also translate pages into 54 languages in one of my favorite features of Microsoft Edge, Immersive Reader.
Microsoft Inspire 2020 provided many improvements to Microsoft’s 365 solutions for business. Teams has become more and more collaborative and catered to companies with diverse solution sets. Not only can businesses integrate third-party applications and services into Teams, but businesses can also build in a low code platform with Dataflex. I think Microsoft has given partners a great look into the direction Microsoft wants to go with its Microsoft 365.
I could say the same thing about Microsoft’s Edge Browser in that Microsoft is making it the perfect browser for all business relations in the same way that Teams is becoming the all-in-one business collaboration platform. From an enterprise perspective, the Edge browser is perfect with its data protection and productivity tools.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article