Microsoft has added new features for frontline workers who use their Teams workflow collaboration application, including a new "walkie-talkie" feature.
With 200 million monthly active users in Office 365, Microsoft has been expanding its focus on hotel, manufacturing and retail industry workers. IT argued that many of these employees have been neglected in the past, the company argued, although they are the first point of contact with customers or products.
Microsoft and others, such as Google and Facebook, with their corporate social network Workplace, see a lucrative, and relatively unexploited, market in frontline workers. Microsoft notes that there are about two billion people worldwide now in roles oriented to tasks or services.
Last week a series of updates arrived at Teams, the Microsoft Office 365 collaboration application. Among them is the walkie-talkie function, which is integrated into the Teams mobile application and allows users to start a conversation with a co-worker with the press of a button or transmit an audio message just as they would in a analog device
Unlike traditional walkie-talkies, there is no risk of cross-talk or spying by strangers, Microsoft said in a statement. As it is based on Wi-Fi or mobile data, the function can also be used in different geographical locations. The function, available in a preliminary version "in the first half of this year", is designed to reduce the number of devices that workers carry and reduce IT costs.
The push-to-talk (PTT) feature will be integrated into Samsung's Galaxy XCover Pro, a rugged smartphone intended for business use and presented at the end of the CES trade show on Sunday. The XCover Pro features two programmable buttons that users can press to activate the voice option in Teams.
"Microsoft and Samsung have a long history of gathering the best hardware and software to help solve the challenges of our customers," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. "The powerful combination of Microsoft Teams and the new Galaxy XCover Pro is based on this partnership and will provide frontline workers everywhere with the technology they need to be more collaborative, productive and safe."
Pressing to speak should help Microsoft, as it targets frontline workers with their products, said Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research.
"These workers have generally been beyond the reach of commercial and IT communications, but they are becoming increasingly relevant to digital transformation initiatives," he said. "The incorporation of PTT into equipment is particularly relevant because in many cases, frontline workers can benefit from a" direct and hands-free communication "approach to mobile communications."
Other features announced by Microsoft include integration with Microsoft Tasks in Teams; integration with third-party work management platforms of Kronos and JDA; and identity and administration features, such as SMS login using unique codes sent to a smartphone; delegated user management; and logout of shared device.
This is not the first time that Microsoft offers Teams features for frontline workers. A year ago, the company added the shared location, the ability to record and share audio messages and a camera module with image annotations. It has also folded functionality aimed at frontline workers of separate services, which include StaffHub shift management tool and communications application similar to WhatsApp Kaizala.
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