Microsoft is working on a new portable speaker, according to a recent patent filing, and the inventors on the project point to the possibility that it could be an important piece of meeting hardware for the company’s Teams productivity tool.
The new patent, first spotted by Windows United, shows a fabric-covered cylindrical device that resembles a Google Home Mini. It includes volume buttons and indications it can make and take calls.
Other than that, the patent doesn’t reveal much detail on the device. We don’t know if it is voice-activated, or if it will include the digital assistant Cortana, or even Amazon’s Alexa, a possibility given the surprising alliance between the two companies.
Microsoft declined to comment on the patent.
Listed on the patent for the portable speaker as an inventor is Malek Chalabi, a principal design manager for Microsoft Teams. His inclusion suggests a tie-in between Teams and the portable speaker. Also named in the document is Eliana Feigelstock, who spent more than four years at Microsoft before going to Amazon to work on Alexa earlier this year.
Microsoft in the past showed off a “meeting room of the future,” with a number of prototype devices. It illustrated that Microsoft is investing in new devices with a goal of re-imagining how meetings work.
Teams, which is competing with Slack and others, is set to become Microsoft’s default meeting solution in the coming years. The shift will occur in 2021, when the tech giant retires its current default meetings tool, Skype for Business