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At Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced Azure Communication Services, which leverages the same network powering Microsoft Teams to enable developers to add multimodal messaging to apps and websites while tapping into services like Azure Cognitive Services for translation, sentiment analysis, and more. At Build 2021 today, Microsoft previewed upgrades and enhancements heading to Azure Communication Services, including call recording, a UI library, and an SDK for native apps that run on Windows.

With customer representatives in India, the U.S., and elsewhere required to work from home during the pandemic, companies are turning to managed solutions to bridge the gaps in service. The platforms aren’t perfect, but COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for distributed contact center setups, particularly those powered by AI. Grand View Research reports that the contact center software market will grow to $72.3 billion by 2027.

“Azure Communication Services uses the same reliable and secure infrastructure that powers Teams and with built-in interoperability allows users of your custom app to join meetings and interact with users on Teams,” Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 Platform general manager, said in a blog post. “Even better, with Azure Communication Services on the back-end connecting to Microsoft Teams, developers enjoy free VoIP and chat usage for Teams app users.”

New features

Now in preview, the new UI library for Azure Communication Services offers a range of options for building custom experiences, including prebuilt composites, modules, and templates. It extends as a layer on top of Azure Communication Services for calling and chat, delivering Microsoft Teams-like composable and turnkey components that are fully open source and identity-agnostic.


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Call recording for Azure Communication Services, which is coming in June in preview, provides server-side runtime control APIs that allow for mixed audio and video output with built-in storage (for up to 48 hours). Recorded media output is in MP4 audio and video format, just like in Teams, with more formats planned — including audio-only MP3.

Another new feature arriving next month in preview is direct routing. A virtual connection between apps and legacy telephony for calls on the public switched telephone network (PSTN), direct routing enables calling through the PSTN and connections into third-party equipment through a certified session border controller.

In related news, Azure Communication Services now supports the Traversal Using Relays around NAT protocol in preview, which allows real-time communication between apps built with WebRTC or where endpoints are behind NAT or firewalls that prevent a successful connection. And the Azure Communication Services Calling SDK for Windows Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is now available, allowing developers to add voice and video calling to native Windows apps on PCs, Xbox, mixed-reality headsets, HoloLens, internet of things devices, and more.

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