2020 isn’t over yet, but one thing’s for sure: it has definitely been the year of Microsoft Teams. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak the platform was enjoying healthy growth, but its popularity soared when millions of people were forced to work from home back in the spring.
Teams saw a 70% increase in user numbers in April 2020 alone. Many organisations would be content to sit back and relax now, but it seems that Microsoft’s aspirations for its collaboration platform are limitless. The company’s developers have truly taken advantage of Teams’ newfound popularity to introduce a rich set of new updates and features this year.
At the same time, Teams has been at the epicentre of several high-profile controversies. To put it mildly, it’s been a rollercoaster of a year for the platform. We thought we would break down the biggest headlines and features for the platform so far in 2020:
Skyrocketing user growth
The platform’s unprecedented growth topped technology news headlines earlier this year. In April 2020, Teams surpassed 75 million daily active users, with this number likely to have grown further since then. When you consider that the Teams user base was 20 million in November 2019, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global workforce is clear.
Multiple window capability
Older versions of Teams only allowed users to have one meeting or call open at a time; multi-tasking was out of the question. This year, Microsoft announced “Multi-window experiences”, providing the ability to have multiple windows open at once. Take a call, join a meeting, chat to a colleague – this feature offers a significant amount of flexibility.
More video participants
One of the main areas in which Teams has previously struggled to compete with Zoom is in the number of visible video participants it allowed in a meeting. Originally, only four participants could be seen at a time, making large meetings somewhat clunky and unengaging. In the spring, Microsoft addressed this by introducing a 9-participant grid view, which recently grew to a 49-person video gallery.
Using Teams for free
Microsoft was quick to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Quickly realising the effect that Teams would have on working dynamics, the company offered a free 6-month subscription to all businesses and institutions that weren’t currently licensed. By introducing thousands of new users to the benefits of Teams and Business Voice, the company got a head start on its rivals in the booming remote working market.
Success comes at a price, and some of Microsoft’s rivals weren’t happy about Teams’ increasingly encompassing popularity. In July, rival platform Slack went to the European Commission to file an antitrust complaint against Microsoft. Slack alleged that, by tying in Teams with Microsoft 365, the company had unfairly forced users to choose it over other platforms. Microsoft responded that the public’s preference for Teams was due to the platform’s superior video conferencing capabilities. The case is ongoing, with a result expected later in the year.
Video calls are the new face-to-face
Teams has always offered video functionality but when most employees were in the office, it was habit to either meet face to face or have a quick audio call. Since global lockdowns forced people into their homes, video calls have become the new norm and are proving to be a great way to maintain a sense of team spirit. In March 2020, video was used in 43% of Teams meetings, compared to just 21% the month before. Overall, Teams video calls have grown by more than 1,000% as a result of the pandemic.
Lockdown has been a lonely experience for many. Video calls may never full match a face to face conversation, but Teams’ new Together Mode could be the next best thing. This feature uses AI segmentation technology to allow up to 50 users to share a single background. Available backgrounds include an auditorium, a conference room and a cafe, letting participants create a suitable atmosphere for any type of meeting.
Microsoft has added a whole host of other tweaks and upgrades to the Teams package in 2020. Providing meeting hosts with greater control, the introduction of the “raise hand” feature and even greater channel personalisation, to name a few. Microsoft is relentless when it comes to innovation, so you can expect plenty more Teams enhancements (and possibly controversies!) to come.
If you’d like to get started with Teams or want to get more out of your existing subscription, call us today for guidance and support.