Monday, May 16, 2022

Microsoft’s Windows 11 Hybrid Work Event: What to Expect

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Microsoft will reveal next week how the company is building Windows for the future of hybrid work. a special event, Windows powers the future of hybrid work, takes place on April 5 and features Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. It is expected to include a variety of new Windows 11 security, productivity, and management features, both in the client and in the cloud.

So what exactly are we going to see next week? We’ll likely get our first glimpse of Microsoft’s vision to build Windows for a new world of remote work. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has emphasized how important the move to hybrid work is for Microsoft. “Hybrid labor represents the biggest shift to how we work in our generation,” Nadella said last year. “And it requires a new business model that includes people, places and processes.”

Microsoft made several changes to Microsoft Teams during the pandemic, making it easier to use for remote participants and employees adapting to the realities of hybrid work. While Windows 11 includes some improvements for multiple monitors, multitasking, and Teams integration, it’s clear that Microsoft has the ability to build a lot more into the core operating system.

A smarter clipboard

One of the first new Windows 11 features we expect to see next week is a smart clipboard. Windows 11 already has a clipboard where you can save and paste multiple items, but Microsoft has been working on suggested actions you can take with items on your clipboard. These could be suggestions to call a number through Microsoft Teams or Skype if you copied one or send an email if you copied an email address.

References to this smart clipboard and the suggested actions feature have: appeared in recent builds of Windows 11 dev, so it’s likely this is a productivity feature that we’ll see highlighted by Microsoft.

Tabs in File Explorer

Another feature that has appeared in recent builds of Windows 11 dev is tabs in File Explorer. This much-requested feature first appeared as Sets in Windows 10, before Microsoft canceled the project to bring tabs to every app. Now it looks like tabs are set to return to File Explorer in Windows 11 soon.

Tab support is currently hidden in Windows 11 dev builds, and Microsoft said last month it would test experimental features in Windows 11 that may never ship. It’s possible that tabs in File Explorer are just an experiment, but as Microsoft strives to improve the productivity of Windows 11, this feature seems like an ideal example for the April 5 event.

Tabs in File Explorer.
Image: Rafael Rivera (Twitter

A new Windows email app

The built-in email app for Windows 11 needs a total overhaul and it looks like one is on the way. Microsoft has been testing a new Outlook app that will eventually replace the built-in email app on Windows. Codenamed Monarch or “One Outlook”, the app first leaked over a year ago as a web-based and lightweight alternative to the win32 Outlook app.

ZDNet recently reported that Microsoft plans to officially announce this new Outlook app in the spring, so the April 5 event certainly sounds like a good time.

Microsoft Teams and a 3D Metaverse

Microsoft has promised to bring 3D avatars to Microsoft Teams in the first half of 2022, so we’ll probably be taking a closer look at these next week. These new 3D avatars are designed to reduce meeting fatigue so you don’t have to turn on your webcam all the time. They’re also part of a wider drive to create a metaverse environment for Microsoft, and you don’t need to put on a VR headset to use them. Microsoft will use AI to listen to your voice and animate these avatars accordingly.

We’ll also likely see some of Microsoft’s visions for the future of hybrid work and the metaverse with Windows 11 and Microsoft 365. Microsoft has been building immersive meetings for Teams and a full Microsoft Mesh platform over the past year, and Nadella is optimistic about the metavers. .

Image: Microsoft

“We feel very well positioned to be able to capture what I believe is essentially the next wave of the Internet,” Nadella said during Microsoft’s earnings call earlier this year. “I think the next wave of the internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, be it organizations, game developers or anyone else.”

We also expect some more Teams features and perhaps additional integration in Windows 11. Microsoft already has a Teams client built into Windows 11, but companies will need to install a separate one to use work accounts. This cleanup in Windows 11 should undoubtedly be part of Microsoft’s plans to improve hybrid working with Windows 11.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft has added numerous productivity and security features to its Edge browser to set it apart from Chrome, Firefox, and others. We expect further additions focused on hybrid work and productivity.

Edge’s PDF reader looks like it will soon include a much-needed improvement with full support for a table of contents, thumbnails, and much more† Reddit users have also seen the return of a Workspaces feature, which essentially works like a virtual desktop for your browser. Microsoft started testing this feature last year, and the latest Edge Canary builds show it may be about to make a comeback.

A new option for Edge workspaces.
Image: Leopeva64-2 (reddit

Security and management

It wouldn’t be a corporate Microsoft event without some security and management announcements. We expect Microsoft to announce some new security and management features for Windows 11 and Windows 365 next week. These are likely to fall under Microsoft’s broad Endpoint Manager, which includes Intune, Autopilot, and Configuration Manager.

Microsoft has been on a mission to improve security in Windows 11, especially with the TPM and Secure Boot requirements. A recent addition is a vulnerable drivers block list for Windows Defender, and we would expect other improvements to protect Windows 11 from the complications of remote working.

The edge will be covering Microsoft’s Windows event on April 5, so stay tuned for the latest.

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