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Microsoft Adds New Free Features for Teams as It Battles Zoom

Users of personal Teams accounts can now host video calls featuring up to 300 people, as well as access Teams' PC and web apps.
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Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report continues adding new features to its Teams collaboration platform at a breakneck pace, as it tries to gain more ground against the likes of Zoom  (ZM) - Get Zoom Video Communications, Inc. Class A Report and Slack  (WORK) - Get Slack Technologies, Inc. Class A Report.

On Friday, the software giant expanded support for personal (non-business) Teams accounts to its PC and web browser apps. And notably -- with the holiday season on the way -- Microsoft will now let personal account users host up to 24-hour video calls featuring up to 300 people.

In addition, chats on Teams’ mobile apps now support non-Teams users via SMS integration, and (provided that both parties consent) Teams users can get notifications when a friend or relative arrives at a designated location.

The new features arrive two months after Microsoft revealed several features for Teams that are aimed at business users. These included a feature known as Breakout Rooms, which lets video call hosts split a meeting’s participants into groups, as well as the ability to get an automatic recap of meetings that can include a recording, transcript and shared files.

Other Teams features announced this year include a Together Mode that uses machine learning to place a video meeting’s members in a common virtual room such as an auditorium or a coffee shop, and (with an eye towards better supporting large company meetings and virtual classrooms) the ability to see up to 49 meeting participants in a 7x7 grid.

CEO Satya Nadella disclosed on Microsoft’s Oct. 27 earnings call that Teams’ daily active user (DAU) count has risen above 115 million. That’s up from 75 million as of late April and just 20 million as of Oct. 2019.

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Nadella also talked at length about Teams’ strategic importance to Microsoft, for reasons that go well beyond the spike in remote work activity seen this year.

“Teams is the only solution [that supports] meetings, calls, chat, content collaboration, as well as business process workflows, in a secure, integrated user experience,” Nadella asserted. He also argued that Microsoft’s ability to support workflows that encompass both Teams and other Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) apps is a differentiator.

For its part, Zoom, which like Teams doesn’t require a person to have a registered account to take part in a video meeting, reported having 300 million daily meeting participants in April. Unlike a DAU, a daily meeting participant can be counted more than once in a day, if he or she attends multiple meetings.

Zoom has been making its share of product announcements this year as well. In October, Zoom unveiled Zapps, a platform for using third-party business apps and tools via the Zoom app. Initial partners include Slack, Atlassian  (TEAM) - Get Atlassian Corp. Plc Class A Report, Box  (BOX) - Get Box, Inc. Class A Report Dropbox  (DBX) - Get Dropbox, Inc. Class A Report and ServiceNow  (NOW) - Get ServiceNow, Inc. Report.

Microsoft’s stock is down fractionally in Friday trading. Zoom and Slack, which are benefiting from broader strength in work-from-home plays, are up 6.1% and 6.8%, respectively.

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