Free kick for Teams as Microsoft tries to reduce Slack

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But now with the free version, Microsoft is hoping to tempt smaller businesses and freelancers into using its tool.

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.

The free version of Teams supports 300 users and offers unlimited chat messages and search, as well as built-in audio and video calling for individuals, groups, and full team meetups, Ron Markezich, corporate vice-president for Microsoft wrote on the Microsoft website.

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Integrated, real-time content creation with Office Online apps, including built-in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

There are some caveats to keep in mind, however.

After its launch a year ago, Microsoft Teams now functions in more than 200,000 businesses across 181 markets, according to the press release. Slack has offered a free version since it first arrived on the scene, and looking at Slack's dominance today, it seems like it was a good move.

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Teams is also getting a super-handy new feature in the form of so-called background blur, which uses artificial intelligence to cut down on a common videoconferencing faux pas. Scheduled meetings, meeting recording with Microsoft Stream, phone calls and audio conferencing, enforced multi-factor authentication, admin tools for managing users and apps, searchable transcription and timecoding and more. Users can sign in with a free Microsoft Account. The service was launched in 2016 as an entirely paid service, and while there are enough takers for its premium offerings, the lack of a free tier has kept its growth slow.

While this approach was suitable for large enterprise customers, it could be a prohibitive cost for small businesses - who subsequently turned to free systems.

Slack has more than 1,500 third-party app integrations, and Cisco's Webex Teams is a video-centric collaboration platform that works well with Cisco's networking hardware and software.

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In other workplace collaboration news, Microsoft announced that Office 365 users will be able to run live and on-demand events through Yammer. Microsoft officials said the app will be "coming soon" to iOS and be available soon as a preview on the web. Search results are also more personalized, based on which colleagues are most commonly communicated with, and an expanded search view has been added.

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