A Microsoft executive gave audience members at Enterprise Connect the lowdown on all things AI in the AI-infused Microsoft Teams.

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Microsoft's Nicole Herskowitz at Enterprise Connect

ENTERPRISE CONNECT — Microsoft Teams executive Nicole Herskowitz took to the stage in Orlando at a massive gathering of communications and collaboration vendors, buyers and sellers to usher in upgrades to their collaboration platform.

The announcements, led by Herskowitz, Microsoft's vice president of Teams and platform marketing, highlighted the tech giant's freshest innovations and road map for Teams, which focused predominantly on artificial intelligence infusion. 

Herskowitz’s keynote featured live demonstrations of said new features and, as live demos go, included a few technical difficulties, which she adroitly navigated. A crowd of several thousand have assembled for Enterprise Connect 2024, where the Microsoft exec welcomed loud applause, especially from the Microsoft team seated in the front row.

“I mostly hear from customers about how to make this 'new normal' work, which has been challenging. AI has created a need for reinvention in this new age of AI,” Herskowitz told those gathered at the conference and expo owned by Informa, the parent company of Channel Futures.

“First, let’s talk about hybrid work. It has been complicated and messy,” Herskowitz remarked, noting that many teams must work across different time zones, from varied office settings, homes and with varied technology. Herskowitz said while her team works Tuesday through Thursday at Microsoft offices, “collaborating from the office must be as easy as working from home.” 

Related:Enterprise Connect New Products: RingCentral, Zoom, Five9, Avaya, More

Microsoft's Investments in AI Aren't Unnoticed 

Herskowitz told the crowd that Microsoft has made “major investments” across the board for Teams, but especially in areas such as setting up Teams Rooms, Teams Phone, and functionality such as voice isolation and other features that provide better experiences live meeting attendees. The same goes for how AI is helping workers with to-the-point recaps of meeting notes, pressing matters or issues that must be addressed immediately.

During a live demo conducted by Microsoft’s Derek Snyder, the company took some playful shots at competitor Zoom, at one point disconnecting a call featuring voice isolation because an alleged Zoom employee was in the area. 

The ploy drew laughter from the audience, but there is no doubt Zoom and Microsoft, via its Teams offer, are locked in a heated battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of users, partners and developers. 

“We have made major investments in setting up Microsoft Teams Rooms. We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; AI will be pervasive,” Herskowitz said.

Related:The Future of Collaboration Technology Requires Data Governance

She also told the crowd the hours and days many workers and managers are losing to email meetings will be a thing of the past soon, as AI can “do in seconds what used to take us hours or even days.”

Getting the Most out of an AI-Infused Workplace

“I use AI on how I spend my time, I use AI to brainstorm to prepare for big team meetings like preparing an agenda. I use AI to create completely new things or even like the abstract for this keynote,” Herskowitz said.

During her keynote, the Microsoft exec assured those assembled that the company remains committed to partnering with buyers and sellers on their “AI journey” as it infuses AI into all the products it builds, including Teams. 

“Every part of Teams has been 'reimagined' for AI,” she said, noting that more than 300 million people use Teams to communicate, collaborate and get work done.

As a result, she said, Teams Phone usage, for one product extension, is rapidly growing and there are 2,000 third-party apps available.

“Teams has truly become a mission-critical application,” she bragged.

During the keynote and accompanying demo, she noted Microsoft’s investments in Teams performance — claiming it is twice as fast and uses half the memory vs. a year ago — along with better reliability, a notion Microsoft MVP Mark Vale has also backed up

When she stated that Teams Phone has reached "five nines" of reliability, she received applause from the audience. In addition, Microsoft ushered in ease-of-use features and the ability for users to achieve greater customization.

Making Workplace Collaboration More Practical

Herskowitz spent a decent portion of her time on stage accentuating how AI via Copilot embedded in Teams can make the collaboration platform "more useful" with meeting recaps or by highlighting individual speakers.

“I no longer take notes in meetings,” she said, because embedded Copilot in Teams is doing that for her.

Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, told Channel Futures "we need to be careful; otherwise, we won't have meetings to attend."

In addition to those announcements, Microsoft also disclosed work on such pilots and previews as “Project Sniff,” “Project Smell-A-Vision,” along with a new "Queues" application, which it designed to make Teams work more efficiently.

The Microsoft exec ended her time on stage with a video showing prominent universities and large global enterprise customers such as Bayer and Conagra using Teams and its plethora of unique AI applications.

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About the Author(s)

Moshe Beauford

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Moshe has nearly a decade of expertise reporting on enterprise technology. Within that world, he covers breaking news, artificial intelligence, contact center, unified communications, collaboration, cloud adoption (digital transformation), user/customer experience, hardware/software, etc.

As a contributing editor at Channel Futures, Moshe covers unified communications/collaboration from a channel angle. He formerly served as senior editor at GetVoIP News and as a tech reporter at UC/CX Today.

Moshe also has contributed to Unleash, Workspace-Connect, Paste Magazine, Claims Magazine, Property Casualty 360, the Independent, Gizmodo UK, and ‘CBD Intel.’ In addition to reporting, he spends time DJing electronic music and playing the violin. He resides in Mexico.

Robert DeMarzo

VP of Content, Channel Futures

Robert DeMarzo is the vice president of content for Informa Tech Channels.

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