Microsoft Teams now available for everyone, offers free 24-hour calling
Following in the footsteps of other enterprise-grade video calling solutions that opened their doors to the masses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft has launched a version of Teams for personal use today. The service debuted as a preview last year and the final global roll-out appears to have retained almost all the features available in the enterprise version. Here are more details.
Last year when the pandemic began to claim lives en masse and businesses transitioned to the work-from-home model, video calling providers such as Zoom shot up in popularity. Google also unlocked its enterprise-grade Google Meet video conferencing tool for everyone with a Gmail account. Meanwhile, in June 2020, Microsoft rolled out a preview for Teams available on iOS and Android.
Microsoft Teams works on the web, mobile, and desktop app in addition to iOS and Android. The preview version allowed free video calling for a duration of 24 hours and the stable version will also allow up to 24-hour long calls with 300 participants or less. The liberal video calling limits appear to be an attempt to boost initial adoption.
Eventually calls with up to 100 participants will be limited to a one-hour duration. However, one-on-one video calls will retain the 24-hour time limit. Additionally, a recent addition to the service called Together Mode will be available to personal users. Together Mode uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to cut out participants' faces and shoulders from their video feed and place them against a virtual backdrop.
Some interesting features bundled into Teams include live emoji reactions and GIFs which show as an overlay on your video feed. Furthermore, Microsoft has included an instant messaging service within teams that thankfully doesn't reset after calls conclude. A to-do list feature has also been integrated into messaging. Here, participants can create, edit, and complete shared tasks.
The to-do list packs some nifty shortcuts. You can tap and hold messages to convert them into tasks, which can then be assigned to participants. Besides this, one can create opinion polls in the messaging section. Alongside the Chat section on Teams, Microsoft included a Dashboard view where your photos, events, links, task lists, and files are grouped together for easy access.
Although Skype got a feature resembling Together mode in December 2020, it didn't make waves given Zoom's growing popularity. However, Microsoft said it remains committed to developing Skype alongside Microsoft Teams when it launched the latter's preview last year. The company's products intend to rival Zoom and Google Meet, but the recent Microsoft Teams and Azure services outages could dent user confidence and trust.