Simplified Loop Deployment and Windows 365 Switch Enters Preview


Microsoft makes Loop easier to deploy and releases an app in the Store but is Loop too complicated to use? Plus, Windows 365 Switch arrives in preview, Windows 11 is getting support for the Azure Attestation Service, and all the week’s important IT news.


Microsoft makes Loop easier to deploy and releases an app in the store, but is it too complicated to use? Plus, Windows 365 Switch enters public preview and Windows 11 is getting support for the Azure attestation service. And all the week’s other important IT news.

Welcome to This Week in IT where I cover all the latest enterprise tech news about Microsoft 365 and Windows. Notion has been a real force in the productivity space now for several years, especially for startups and smaller companies that don’t really want to necessarily invest in the huge enterprise solutions that Microsoft is offering. Now, I use Notion. There are whole YouTube channels based around using Notion and a whole industry around templates for Notion. One of the issues I have with it is that it actually is a little bit complicated to set up. You need to go through the process of working out how you’re going to use it before you can actually get going.

You probably need to be a bit of a techy to really understand how to work with Notion databases, for instance, which in my opinion is where the real power of Notion lies. Because Notion has been eaten into that productivity space over the last few years, Microsoft had to come up with some kind of answer to it. So their answer is an application called Loop and it went into public preview, I think it was around February, March this year. Of course, at this stage, it’s in preview, it’s not fully featured or fleshed out yet. From what I’ve seen of it so far, it looks okay. The user interface is quite simplified compared to Notion. That’s one of the problems I always have with these techy applications like Notion and Slack is that the user interfaces are just too complicated for normal people, if you like. As ever, Microsoft does a great job in general with its user interfaces and Loop looks pretty nice and simple to navigate around and intuitive, I hope.

But one of the biggest issues with Loop is that the functionality is not there compared to Notion. It’s just a little bit hobbled, if you like. In my mind, the biggest piece missing is that database piece, that’s the most powerful feature of Notion. Now, Microsoft does have the database piece, if you like, in the form of Microsoft Lists, but that is not enabled as a component in Loop at this stage, but I hope that it will be coming at some point in the future. I got this information from Tony Redmond, so thanks to him over at Office 365 IT Pros, that Microsoft has now made Loop easier to deploy. It’s not enabled by default in your Microsoft 365 tenant at this stage because it’s still in preview, so you might not want your users to have access to it. But now you can enable Loop just like you would enable any other component without having to jump through lots of hoops, if you like, to get this thing going. And Tony also noted that Microsoft has released a PWA in the Microsoft Store. Of course, this is just a wrapper for what you get in the browser, but again, it just makes it easier for users to get the Loop experience installed on their PC and it has the look and feel of a native app, if you like. So there’s two important updates. There were no official announcements from Microsoft about either of these things, but both of those have actually happened within the last week or so.

So, the only issue I have with Loop, apart from the fact it doesn’t have that database functionality that you see in Notion at this stage, is that is it a little bit too complicated for end users to grasp? So all this idea of these things being components that are stored somewhere in your OneDrive, but then they appear on your Loop page. I don’t know whether this is, you know, it’s great that it has this flexibility, but is it something that users can grasp? Where is their data being stored? How does this thing hang together? Maybe that’s just my logical mind needing to understand how it works. Maybe the average user just doesn’t really care how it works. I don’t know. So having said that, when you create a page in Loop, you don’t have to make the elements you put on a Loop page a component. That’s an optional thing. So if you create a Loop component in a Teams chat, for instance, you know, it is a component that’s saved in OneDrive, which you then share with people in the chat. But in the Loop application, that’s not necessarily the case.

So you know, it’s a little bit of a strange situation where is it a component? Is it a portable component? Isn’t it a portable component? Do I need to make it a portable component? So I’m not sure. It all seems a little bit complex to me. So let me know what you think about Loop. Have you had a chance to use it? Is it something you think your user base would adopt? I’d love to know what you think. So please share any experiences you have with that in the comments below. Microsoft 365 Switch has gone into public preview. So just a quick recap. Microsoft 365 is a virtualization service for Windows. So it kind of comes pre-packaged these virtual machines that you can roll out to end users. You don’t really need to do any configuration. It just kind of works. So it’s a little bit different from Azure Virtual Desktop. So this week, Microsoft announced that the Switch feature, which I think they’ve been talking about for at least a year now, is coming into public preview. Now, you need to be on the beta version of Windows Insider build, both on the local PC and on the cloud PC for this to work. So I assume that this is a feature that’s going to be coming in the release of Windows 11 in the fall. It’s not something that works on the current release of the operating system. Now, Microsoft is saying that this is kind of a revolutionary new integration feature. So it gives you kind of an immersive experience that no other virtual desktop provider is able to offer. What this does is it puts your cloud PC into task view. So you can switch between the cloud PC like you would switch between any other app. Now, this is optional. It’s something that you don’t have to do. So you can figure it in the Windows 365 app. And at the current time, you can only pin one cloud PC to task view. So if you’re working with multiple PCs, cloud PCs on a regular basis, that might be a bit of a disadvantage.

But I guess they’re working towards making that a possibility in the future. So I think this is a nice feature. So do go and check that out if you’re currently using Windows 365. This week in the message center, Microsoft announced that there’s going to be a new workflow app for Microsoft Teams, where all the workflows that you’ve configured and can configure, I guess, as well, will be kind of located in one central place. Now, this is a little bit odd to me because there is already an app called Workflows for Microsoft Teams. What that app currently does is give you the option from messages in a Teams chat, for instance, to add a workflow. There’s not an actual app in the list of apps if you install it and then try and find it. It’s just like a message integration feature, if you like. So I guess what Microsoft means by this announcement is they’re expanding that so you get an actual central hub where you can go and see all of your workflows. So this is a new entry point for workflows in Teams. Don’t know when this is going to be widely available, but that was announced this week. Microsoft says that the Bing Enterprise chat is going to be available for Microsoft 365 subscribers starting next month. This is a free version of Bing chat and it’s designed to protect your enterprise data to make sure that doesn’t end up in places where you might not want it to be. So that is coming and it will be enabled by default. If you’re using Outlook on the web in your Microsoft 365 tenant, Microsoft has added refiners to search. I love the terminology they add to these things or attach to these things. So I had to go and look to kind of understand what do they mean exactly.

I already have this in my tenant. When you perform a search in the Outlook web client, you get the results and then the ability to further refine that search. So for instance, you might only want to see messages that have an attachment or that have been flagged, for instance. Microsoft Enter ID, so previously Azure Active Directory. So a protected action is something that is a very risky thing that you might do in Microsoft 365 management. So for instance, conditional access management policy in itself, custom rules that define network locations, modifying those settings are protected actions. And what you can do now is you can use conditional access policy to further verify that the person doing those risky things is who they say they are and meets a number of additional requirements other than just logging in. So you get that additional protection. The thing about this at the moment is that the set of protected actions is quite limited. But Microsoft says, depending on customer feedback, they will look at expanding those actions in the future.

So, a bit of crossover news here. Microsoft Defender for Cloud, which of course is part of Microsoft 365, is getting support for new management capabilities on the Google Cloud platform. Of course, this is becoming more and more important as organizations start to look into multi-cloud strategies. The key new features that are going to be supported here are Attack Path Analysis, Cloud Security Explorer, Agent List Scanning, and Data Aware Security Posture. So that’s all coming for GCP. This is actually something that I didn’t know, but the Microsoft Graph supports indexing your on-site data. So you can get access to that. We’re just talking about search and how important I think search is for Microsoft 365 as a selling point. So yeah, you can actually index on-premises data as well. So that’s interesting. So what Microsoft announced this week in the Message Center is that those Microsoft Graph connectors are now getting content surfaced in the Microsoft 365 web app. I assume that means if you’re also indexing on-premises data, that might appear there as well. And there’s going to be a simplified administration experience in the Teams Admin Center. So I think that’s all really cool stuff. Last week we talked a bit about attestation, what it means, and what Microsoft is doing with Samsung, their hardware partner for Android phones. So if you want to know more about that, go and check out last week’s episode. But this week, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 is getting support for the Azure Attestation Service. So currently, Windows 10 and Windows 11 use the Windows Device Hardware Attestation Service.

The Azure Attestation Service is going to enable cloud intelligence to be involved in that whole process. Now, Microsoft says that only Windows 11 is getting support for Azure Attestation and this is something that’s going to happen automatically. It’s not something you need to set up and configure. But they did say that you might need to make sure that you change any firewall rules to make sure that they’re not blocking access to the cloud attestation service. So that’s an interesting development if you’re currently using that kind of security on your endpoints. Microsoft Syntex has got a price reduction for processing each page of unstructured documents. So previously it was 10 cents and now Microsoft have slashed the cost of that to just 5 cents. So if you’re using that service, they also announced some new pay as you go services for Syntex. Syntex content assembly, so this is where organizations can streamline their repetitive content generation processes like business proposals, invoices and statements.

And the Syntex image tagging feature lets customers assign descriptive keywords to images to speed up the searching process. So that also sounds really useful. If you’re using PowerShell to manage Microsoft Teams, this week Microsoft released a new PowerShell module. So now we have version 5.5. Now it is just really fit and finished. I don’t think there are any major new features in this release, but it is going to be important to update, especially if you’re running anything less than the version 4 of the module, because they’re going to be out of support very soon. If you found the content in this video available, I’d really appreciate it if you gave it a like. That helps to spread the video more widely on YouTube so more people get to see it. If you’d like to see news updates like this every week, then don’t forget to subscribe to the channel and hit the bell notification so that you don’t miss out. That’s it from me for this week, but I’m going to leave you with the video on the screen now that goes into a little bit more detail on a Microsoft Loop. That’s it from me today and I’ll see you next time.