Video Conferencing Interoperability Part 2

Unlocking the Power of Multi-Platform Video Conferencing: What is Platform Interoperability?

Part 2: Platform Interoperability

As discussed in Part One of our series, the major videoconferencing platforms are beginning to understand the importance of platform interoperability for their customers.  Recently, both Zoom and Microsoft has released interoperability features, allowing a Zoom Room or Teams Room to join meetings on other platforms.  These moves by both companies are a step forward for their customers.

In general, a meeting scheduled to use either Teams or Zoom can be “joined” from either the single user client, or meeting space using either platform.  There are limitations when joining from a 3rd party application, with functionality and familiar controls no longer available.

Video Conferencing Room Integration for Multiple Platforms in a Single Room

As illustrated above, a meeting organizer has created a meeting for either Teams or Zoom with all required “call in” information attached.  Within the room, you can expect the following:

  • If you are Joining a Zoom Meeting from a Teams Room, or a Teams Meeting from a Zoom Room, the “join” button operates as expected on the room’s controller.
  • Room functions or controls will be different, the familiar screens, or how featured are accessed, will be different for this meeting.
  • Any of the follow controls or features will be limited based upon which platform you are joining from and can include any (or all) control over the room’s resources (camera, audio, content sharing, number of displays visible, managing attendees, etc.).
  • If you are joining from a different platform, you should always assume the room’s resources will operate properly, but control over those resources will be limited.

In general, platform interoperability provides basic functionality, but is will not provide features, controls or the familiar user experience many in-room participants are expecting.

In Depth

Enabling Zoom Rooms Direct Guest Join

To provide a bit more of an in-depth look, let’s take a look at joining a Microsoft Teams meeting from a Zoom Rooms (the service is called Microsoft Teams Direct Guest Join):

First, there are some prerequisites for the Zoom Room’s setup, the following are required to be performed before the Zoom Room is Guest Join functionality is available.

  • Account owner, admin, or role with edit access to Zoom Rooms
  • Zoom Rooms for Windows version 5.13.0 or higher
  • Zoom Rooms for Mac version 5.13.0 or higher
  • Zoom Rooms for Appliances version 5.13.0 or higher (check with the appliance’s manufacturer to determine if the product can support Guest Join)
  • Zoom Rooms controller for Android or iOS version 5.13.0 or higher
  • Zoom Rooms controller for Windows version 5.13.0 or higher
  • Calendar integration with Google, Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013 or later, or Office 365

Once you have completed the steps laid out in the prerequisites, it’s time to “enable” your Zoom Rooms for third-party conferencing.  We are not going to go through the steps, just that to finalize the setup, you will need to be an administrator through the Zoom web portal and enable the service through the Room Management area for Zoom Rooms.  You can enable one, some or all your Zoom Rooms.

Joining a Microsoft Teams meeting using Direct Guest Join from a Zoom Room

  1. Invite a Zoom Room to a Microsoft Teams meeting by directly adding the calendar resource associated with the Zoom Room to the Teams invite or forwarding a Teams calendar invitation received from a third party to the calendar resource associated with the Zoom Room. Alternatively, a user may cut and paste the entire body of a meeting invitation received from an external third party to a new meeting invite that includes the Zoom Room’s calendar resource.
    Once the calendar resource receives the meeting invite, the Zoom Room will display the meeting on its upcoming meeting list with a Join option on the Zoom Rooms controller. If you see Join by Audio instead, double-check the steps above or see the Troubleshooting section.
    Note: Forwarding the invite may require modification of settings in Microsoft Office 365 or Exchange.  In Google Calendar, forwarding is not possible, but a user with appropriate permissions may add the appropriate room or duplicate the meeting to a room calendar.
  2. Click Join on the controller. The Zoom Room will connect to the Teams meeting.
    Note: The join process will take longer than joining a Zoom meeting.
  3. After joining, the following in-meeting controls are available:
    • Mute Microphone
    • Start/Stop Video
    • Volume
    • Leave meeting
    • Send problem report
    • Rejoin meeting
    • Share content
    • Zoom Rooms native controls (if configured)
    • Camera controls (if using a PTZ camera)

Limitations for your Zoom Room when joining a Teams Meeting include:

  • Camera:  only the default camera and control mode will be available during the meeting
  • Audio:  room mics and speakers will be available, including volume and mute.  Other advanced features such as audio zones may not be available, and the audio can’t be changed during the meeting.
  • Room Displays: The Microsoft Teams meeting will only appear on the first display of the Zoom Room, any additional room displays (a second or third display) will be blank.  The additional displays will not show Microsoft Teams meeting participants or shared content.
  • Sharing Content: Sharing user content requires access to the Microsoft Teams client. No wireless or HDMI-based sharing is available through the Zoom Room while joined to a Microsoft Teams call using Direct Guest Join.

Enabling Microsoft Teams Rooms to join third-party meetings

Now let’s dive into interoperability within a Microsoft Teams Rooms setup for Direct Guest Join.  With this feature enabled, users can seamlessly join third-party online and video conferencing meetings, including Cisco Webex and Zoom.  Microsoft has eliminated complexities for users when Teams is the platform within the room.  You can join the meeting from the Teams Room controller, and use the meeting room’s camera, audio and displays.   Eliminating the complexities associated with joining meetings across different platforms, Microsoft Teams Rooms devices provide a unified interface that simplifies collaboration and enhances productivity.

First, there are additional setups for the system administer or managers of Microsoft Teams Rooms.  These steps ensure each room is “enabled” for Direct Guest Join.

  • Step 1: Allow calendar invites to be processed properly for third-party video conferencing meetings. This entails some additional configuration through Microsoft Exchange for the designated room’s associated mailbox to process the invitations.
  • Step 2: Reconfigure Office 365 Threat Protection and link rewrite capabilities to ensure the one-touch join button of the Teams Room controller operates as expected (joining the meeting with a single touch).
  • Step 3: Enable third-party meeting on the Teams Rooms application (the in-room application installed on the computing device).
  • It is important to use Microsoft Teams certified hardware and systems within any rooms you plan to integrate with Direct Guest Join, this ensures support by the Teams application and the proper operation of the room’s devices.
  • The setup and operating of Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows and Teams on Android will be different. The general steps are the same, but the in-room setup and configuration required different activities and steps.

While Microsoft Teams Rooms Guest Join offers a seamless meeting experience across different platforms, it’s important to note that there may be certain limitations when it comes to in-room devices, content sharing, and other functionalities. These limitations can vary depending on the specific devices and configurations in use.

When it comes to cameras and audio, compatibility issues may arise when using third-party platforms like Cisco Webex or Zoom. Some in-room cameras or microphones may not be optimized for these platforms, resulting in suboptimal video or audio quality. Additionally, certain advanced features offered by the native platform, such as speaker tracking or noise cancellation, may not be available during Guest Join.

Content sharing can also present challenges. While basic content sharing should work, advanced features like application sharing or co-authoring may not be fully supported when joining third-party meetings. It’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the specific capabilities and limitations of your Microsoft Teams Rooms devices when using Guest Join with different platforms.

In addition, Microsoft Teams provides a wide-range of application and device integrations.  Certain in-room device integrations, or third party apps, may not work as expected when joining third-party platforms. For example, specific room controls or touch panel functionalities may be designed primarily for Microsoft Teams meetings and may not offer the same level of control or customization when joining meetings hosted on other platforms.

Conclusion

Video Conference platform interoperability is just beginning, and both Zoom and Microsoft are committed to providing join access to each other.  Where we see the primary roadblocks going forward is how functional interoperability is when joining a meeting from meeting space using a different platform.  Room devices, common user interface, content sharing, and the general user experience may be different.  This can create both management and support problems, both in the short and long term.

It’s a great first step, but there is a long way to go to make interoperability fully functional.

Is Platform Interoperability right for you? In Part Three of our series, we will provide a deeper dive into Multi-Platform Video Conferencing.  If you have questions about taking the next step in Video Conferencing within your organization, contact us and let’s have a discussion about your project, your goals, and the best path forward to ensure your success.

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