Microsoft Teams — the collaborative messaging platform that was once just meant for business groups — is coming for consumers later this year. And while there were a ton of upgrade announcements in yesterday's Microsoft 365 reveal, this just might be the biggest of them all.
Teams, for those who don't dabble in enterprise software, is a group messaging platform with chat rooms, direct messages and both audio and video chat. It's been out for more than 3 years now, but it just hit a huge new high mark for users, with Microsoft announcing it's got more than 44 million daily users as of March 19 (that count was 12 million fewer a week before this announcement).
The rush to Teams may be linked to the COVID-19 outbreak, but Teams' success will likely continue well into the future. Microsoft Teams for consumers is scheduled to enter the preview stage in the summer and launch in the Fall. Teams will be free to start, according to Microsoft, and then -- down the line -- premium features will be available as a part of the $6.99 per month Microsoft 365 personal package (which costs $9.99 for family plans for 6 people), which is the successor to Office 365.
Why Microsoft Teams matters
Anyone trying to wrangle a household or even a group of friends can attest, people are hard to get a grip on. While Teams might seem a little formal for some, it will likely find a loving home in groups where a parent or friend is willing to take charge and not worry about being seen as too Type-A.
Say it's time to plan out my colleague Andrew's birthday party (he had to cancel his because of COVID-19 precautions). Shared tasks in Teams allows for assigning tasks, so I can delegate Mike to order something to be delivered to Andrew over Seamless, and make sure Sherri has Andrew is online and ready for the big reveal.
In every chat in Teams, including the hypothetical private group chat where we're planning all of this, there's a dashboard window where you can easily see upcoming events for those involved, as well as recently shared files and photos. A section dubbed the Safe is where Teams allows you to safely store and share sensitive data, using two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption. That way, I can share my credit card info for that order, without worrying where it's going.
Heck, forget Zoom, we can even have the party over Microsoft Teams, as the app has a group video call that works with the iOS and Android apps coming soon — so nobody's left out just because they don't have FaceTime.
Microsoft Teams for consumers is targeting the biggest fish in the ocean
Teams is also being positioned as an attractive Facebook or Google alternative, with Microsoft repeatedly reminding the press that it doesn't sell your data, during the Teams reveal.
It also ties in closely with another Microsoft app that's coming soon: Family Safety. This app helps keep track of where your family members are, and even tracks their style of driving and helps parents monitor the games kids play on Xbox. Screen time limits and age-rating restrictions can also be enacted with Family Safety.
Microsoft Teams for consumers works with Teams for work
Those who already use teams will be able to easily jump between their home and professional Teams groups. As an avid Slack and Discord user, I'm not surprised to see this feature, as it's a basic necessity to keep things organized.
Folks who already use Teams, and love it, will likely be a major key to its mainstream success. It's easy to imagine the parent who sees Teams as a major tool at the office also using it as a way to make their personal life a little more efficient.