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New Teams Rooms features aim to streamline user control

Microsoft's latest changes to Teams Rooms include easier access to its most-used buttons, a scroll-through calendar preview and more ambient theme background display options.

Microsoft's latest update to the Teams Rooms user interface simplifies clickthrough on popular buttons and gathers meeting panels, such as chat and video screens, into various configurations. The updates will be available on Windows applications 4.16 and Android at the end of the quarter.

Microsoft Teams Rooms users will also notice new visual options, including five new ambient screen themes that give them more choices for background images during meetings. Participants can also visualize and scroll through the Teams Rooms calendar directly on the front-of-room display screen.

"The UI update announced in the blog is a new look and feel for Teams Rooms on Windows, rather than a completely new feature set," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Microsoft updated placement of critical tools and visuals such as buttons, chat boxes and meeting participants to give users swifter access to popular functions and better unification of meeting components.

The company also inserted within Rooms more options for the Front Row view, which is the panel that displays participants at the bottom of the meeting screen. New options include side-by-side chat visibility, which allows attendees to view the chat screen on either the left or right panel. There is also more flexibility for IT admins to set the default number of panels and components on panels that appear in the meeting space.

"At first glance, the new look for Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows might seem like an aesthetic improvement. However, the updates should impact the user experience for both the end user and IT support staff," said S&P Global Analyst Raul Castanon. "While team communication and collaboration tools are becoming more sophisticated, the user experience needs to be easy and intuitive. Streamlining the user experience should enable users to be more self-sufficient; this, in turn, should enable IT to address the numerous challenges involved in supporting a distributed work environment and the shift to hybrid work."

Some of the most-used buttons, such as Meet, Call, Share, Join via ID and More -- which accesses the overflow menu -- have been placed in the main display, to reduce clickthrough time.

Within the overflow menu, new features include an "Invite this room" button that enables audio and video from the room to sync up with a meeting started from a companion device. Other new buttons in the overflow menu turn on accessibility capabilities, report a problem, reboot Teams Rooms and open the settings panel.

In March, Cisco will offer hardware compatibility with Microsoft Teams Rooms. It is currently available in beta for partners and enterprise customers.

Cisco devices that will support Teams Rooms include the Board Pro, Room Bar and Room Kit Pro. Users will have access to Microsoft Teams Rooms by default and join Microsoft Teams meetings and Cisco Webex meetings on the same device. Participants can also attend a string of full-feature meetings on both Teams and Webex without IT reconfiguration or restarting the device.

Cisco headsets and cameras compatible with Teams Rooms include the Desk Camera 4K, and the Headset 320 and 720. In the future, the company will add the Room Kit EQ, Desk Pro and Room Navigator.

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