- Microsoft said its Teams workplace chat and collaboration tool now has 44 million daily active users as of March 18th.
- Notably, Microsoft said that number was at 32 million as of March 11th - indicating a huge boom, as companies try and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by asking employees to work from home.
- Microsoft is also announcing several new features for Teams, including background noise suppression in video calls and the ability to read and write messages without an internet connection.
- The increase in user numbers puts pressure on rival Slack, which hasn't provided an update to daily user numbers since October 2019, when it said it had 12 million.
- Critics have accused Microsoft of unfairly goosing its Teams user numbers, since it comes as a bundle with the Office 365 suite, meaning that people might have it, but never use it. Microsoft says that it accounts for the "maximum number of users who take an intentional action over a 24-hour period."
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Microsoft added 12 million daily active users to its Teams workplace chat and collaboration app in the last week, bringing the total to 44 million as of March 18th, the company announced Thursday.
Microsoft had originally shared a figure of 32 million, which was accurate as of March 11th. The new, more current number indicates a huge spike in usage amid a rise in remote work, as companies all over the world send their employees home in a bid to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.
That dynamic has made services like Microsoft Teams all the more important as a way for remote workers to communicate and work together.
Microsoft similarly shared that as of March 18th, 20 of its Teams customers have more than 100,000 employees actively using the product, up from 14 as of March 11th. Some of those companies are Ernst & Young, SAP, Continental AG, and Accenture, which has 440,000 of its employees using Teams.
All of this reflects user numbers that have more than doubled just since November 2019, when Microsoft said Teams had 20 million users.
"We have seen strong growth over the past several months and even more recently in recent weeks, there's certainly been a surge in that growth," Kady Dundas, head of Marketing for Microsoft Teams, told Business Insider. "Right now we're thinking about Teams and how it's being used in health care and education situations and help everyone do the really important work that is required right now to help everyone's health and safety."
With the updated user numbers, Microsoft is also announcing several new features for Teams.
Those include things like background noise suppression in video calls, the ability to read and write messages without an internet connection, and a way to virtually raise your hand when you want to say something in a video call. It's also offering a new service for small businesses that makes Teams into a more traditional phone system, so a desk phone can handle outgoing and incoming calls to regular phone numbers.
Some of the features, like noise reduction and hand-raising, are already things available in rival Zoom's very popular video conferencing app, Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies told Business Insider. Zoom, however, focuses squarely on videoconferencing, meaning that Microsoft may still have an advantage.
While some of the features are playing catch up to other products available, Milanesi thinks Microsoft Teams may have a leg up unique it offers an "all-in-one" tool for chat, video conferencing, and collaboration, whereas rivals like Zoom or Slack only offer one of those services.
Teams offered for free amid the coronavirus pandemic
The announcement comes as Microsoft is offering customers and partners six-month free trials of the premium version of the Teams app, as part of the company's efforts to help those now working from home due to coronavirus. Schools and educational institutions can get access to Teams through a free version of Office 365 that was already available.
Microsoft has previously said that it's seen the impact as more companies and schools use it to keep things running remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the beginning of March the company said it saw a 500 percent increase in usage of Teams in China, where the coronavirus outbreak started. And on March 10 it lifted restrictions on its free Teams app to lift restrictions on user limits and allow users to schedule meetings for video calling and conferencing.
The increased usage has had an impact as well. Teams faced an outage in Europe earlier this week, as more people worked and attended school from home.
Competition with Slack
The announcement also comes one week after Teams' smaller rival Slack, reported earnings but didn't provide an update to its daily active user numbers. In October 2019, Slack said it had 12 million daily active users, the same amount that Teams just added in the last week.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has previously criticized Microsoft's accounting of Teams user growth, saying that users of older Microsoft products are being forced to adopt Teams, which comes in a bundle with many business versions of the Office 365 productivity suite.
In other words, Butterfield has indicated his belief that while many companies may have access to Teams, they may not necessarily be using it - and that Slack customers, by contrast, are highly-engaged with the app.
However, Microsoft recently pushed back on that criticism and said that it counts daily active users as the "maximum number of users who take an intentional action over a 24-hour period," and includes things like sending or replying to a message, joining a meeting, or opening a file in Teams.
Microsoft's head of marketing for its Microsoft 365 division, Jared Spataro, said at a conference in February that passive actions like auto booting the app, minimizing a window, closing the app, or Skype do not count towards its Teams user count.
Teams is also a key part of Microsoft 365, a bundle of business apps and includes Office 365 - cloud-based versions of the company's flagship productivity applications such as Word and Excel - collaboration tools like OneDrive and SharePoint, the Microsoft Teams chat app, security tools, and even the Windows 10 operating system itself.
This bundling approach has come under scrutiny from Slack, with CEO Butterfield previously calling Microsoft a "surprisingly unsportsmanlike" competitor.