Microsoft Challenges Slack With Free Version of Teams

Slack's freemium offering for its collaboration platform has a giant new challenger, Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams

Teams, Microsoft's chat-based group collaboration tool, is now available in a free version, Microsoft corporate vice president Ron Markezich announced July 12.

The application has been available as part of some paid Office 365 plans and Microsoft 365, a software bundle that includes Windows, Office and Enterprise Mobility + Security. By Microsoft's estimates, users at more than 200,000 businesses use Teams to help work collaboratively.

Now, Microsoft is opening the floodgates to a bigger audience.

"Beginning today, Teams is available in a free version worldwide in 40 languages," stated Markezich in a blog post. "Whether you're a freelancer, a small business owner, or part of a team inside a large organization, you can start using Teams today."

Notably, the move allows Microsoft to match the free product offered by its popular rival, Slack. It will also put more pressure on Slack to attract small and midsized businesses to its platform, according to AvePoint CMO Dux Raymond Sy.

"With this new freemium model, it's hard to see how smaller organizations would choose Slack for their chat based collaboration over the superior integration and security features that Microsoft Teams provides," said the AvePoint executive in email remarks sent to eWEEK.

The free version of Teams supports up to 300 users and provides unlimited chat and search functionality. It also includes Skype-like individual and group calling capabilities (audio and video) along with 10GB of group cloud storage and an additional 2GB per user.

Organizations already using Microsoft 365 can now explore new ways of improving collaboration in the workplace with the preview release of Workplace Analytics.

 The application uses data from the Microsoft Graph, a set of APIs that deliver contextual data based on employee information and content stored across Microsoft's business products, to help users identify collaboration and productivity-enhancing opportunities.

The company is also rolling out a feature for Outlook that uses data from MyAnalytics, a work-life balance enhancing tool from Microsoft, which "nudges" users with suggestions meant to help build good habits. For example, it will suggest that users carve out some time out of their schedules for focused work if too many meetings are littering the calendar.

New AI capabilities allow organizations using Microsoft 365 to stage live and on-demand events to engage viewers in new ways.

Using facial recognition, the service can now generate a timeline that allows users to skip to a selected speaker. Speech-to-text and transcript search capabilities lead users directly to a particular themes or topics that are brought up during a talk or discussion. Meanwhile, closed captioning helps users with hearing loss, or the volume turned down, follow along.

Finally, the company officially released its Microsoft Whiteboard app for Windows 10. Borrowing from the digital whiteboard software that ships with the Surface Hub, the stylus-enabled app allows PC users to join their fellow office co-workers or remote colleagues in planning and brainstorming sessions using the same virtual canvas.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...