Microsoft Teams initially appeared in 2017 as an additional feature of Office 365. But you no longer need an Office 365 licence to take advantage of Microsoft Teams, as it is now offered as a completely free product for groups of up to 300 people.
Features of the free version include:
- Unlimited chat messages and search, including inline translation.
- Ability to communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside your organisation.
- Built-in audio and video calling for individuals, group, and full team meet-ups.
- 10GB of team file storage plus additional 2GB per person for personal storage.
- Integrated real-time content creation with Office Online, including built in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
- Unlimited integrations with more than 140 business applications, including Adobe, Evernote, Github and Trello.
An interesting and useful feature coming soon to Teams' video chat/conferencing capability is background blur. This will apply AI to the task of blurring whatever can be seen behind participants, reducing distractions caused by colleagues (or, for those working at home, pets or children) walking behind them.
The full version of Microsoft Teams is included with Office 365 business plans starting with the $7.04 per month Business Essentials plan. This is "a really low step up" in terms of cost, said Heard.
That full version includes 1GB of cloud storage per user, integration with Office desktop apps (which are included in the Business and Business Premium plans but not Business Essentials), meeting scheduling, additional video capabilities (eg real-time transcription, recording to the cloud), even more app integrations, and enterprise-level security and compliance features.