Microsoft announced that its team-based chat application now has a free tier, and it looks pretty swell. The free Microsoft Teams app features pretty much everything any small-business owner or entrepreneur would need.
The app, which was previously only accessible to Microsoft 365 subscribers, brings chat, meetings, calls, and shared storage to “more than 200 000 businesses across 181 markets globally”. Now that it has gone free, it might give Slack, a rival collaboration app, a run for its money.
Microsoft states that Microsoft Teams is currently available for free in 40 languages and in just as many markets. It is developed specifically for teams, “whether you are a freelancer, small-business owner, or part of a team inside a large organisation” and supports up to 300 employees on the free version. It also provides unlimited messages and searches, built-in audio and video calling capabilities, and 10 GB of shared storage – with 2 GB of private storage per person. In addition to all of that, the free version also allows for unlimited app integration with “over 140 business apps”. Among those apps, professionals and creative individuals can expect to see Adobe, Evernote, Trello, and the entire Microsoft Office suite.
There is no denying that Microsoft Teams is an innovative tool for any business. It features Microsoft’s brand new intelligent event capabilities, which are also featured in Microsoft 365. This is essentially a super-powered artificial intelligence that specialises in facial and vocal detection, speech-to-text transcription, timecoding and captioning.
In addition, Microsoft also allows Microsoft Teams users to leverage special analytics features to build better collaboration habits. This software is still in preview stages, but the company feels that it is strong enough to ship with its current Microsoft Teams app. These analytics use collaboration insights from Microsoft Graph, and can be viewed by teams to help them run efficient meetings, invest time for focused work, and respect work/life boundaries. The company states that organisations can use aggregate data in Workplace Analytics to identify opportunities for improving collaboration, then share insights and suggest habits to specific teams via the MyAnalytics page. I know that I could definitely make use of this.
With all that said and done, however, there is one thing that Microsoft Teams has that Slack will seemingly never get. I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the pièce de résistance: Microsoft Whiteboard!
Microsoft Whiteboard, which is now “generally available in Windows 10”, is coming to iOS and Microsoft’s web apps very soon. Now, whether you are in a meeting, or just a team trying to collaborate on a new project, you can draw
phallic objects constructive ideas and have the entire team see it!
Whiteboard allows teams to “ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, across multiple devices”. Users can use pens, touch and keyboards to “jot down notes, create tables and shapes, freeform drawings, and search and insert images from the web”. It is quite literally, a digital whiteboard. Microsoft is making it available to iOS and web apps users “soon”, and it will have core integration with the Microsoft Teams app.
So, while it can, admittedly, not be judged whether Microsoft Teams will put the likes of Slack to sleep anytime soon, it does introduce a brand-new collaborative app into the fold. Will you and your team be using Microsoft Teams?
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