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Microsoft Groups will get walkie-talkie button on Zebra gadgets in broader push for frontline employees

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Microsoft Teams will get a dedicated push-to-talk button on Zebra devices used by frontline workers. (Microsoft Image)

Zebra Technologies, maker of mobile devices widely used in warehouses, stores, and manufacturing facilities, will devote a hardware button on many of its handheld computers to the push-to-talk feature in the Microsoft Teams Walkie-Talkie app.

The planned integration with Zebra devices, announced Wednesday morning, adds to an existing Teams integration with Samsung’s ruggedized devices. Microsoft’s Teams walkie-talkie feature is already available for iOS and Android.

Microsoft also showed new integrations between Teams, Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headsets, and wearable technology for frontline workers from RealWear Inc.

The hardware announcements are part of a broader effort by Microsoft to build on momentum for the Teams communication and collaboration platform among frontline workers, expanding further beyond the stay-at-home remote workers who have driven much its growth.

Microsoft says usage of Teams among frontline workers, who make up 80% of the global workforce, is up 400% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The company did not disclose the underlying numbers.

Frontline workers are the subject of a new installment of Microsoft’s Work Trend Index report, released in conjunction with the new product announcements. According to the report, 76% of surveyed frontline workers said they feel connected to one another, but more than 60% said their companies need to better prioritize building company culture, and communication from managers and top executives.

Along those lines, Microsoft announced several new and expanded features for its Teams, Viva and Yammer services to improve communication and the flow of information across different departments and levels of companies.

Teams competes against apps and services including Slack, which was acquired by Salesforce last year for $27.7 billion; and video conferencing platform Zoom, which announced its own RealWear integrations in November.

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