Readers who find themselves performing tech support for friends and family have a new challenge: Microsoft has created a free version of its Teams collaboration tool for home use.
Formally known as “Personal features in Teams”, the new offering is a free app for Windows, ioS, and Android, or runs in any browser.
The app combines chat, scheduling, lists, task assignments, polls, and some document-based collaboration. Demo vids watched by The Register suggest the chat is prettier and uses more pastels than WhatsApp, with integration of schedules and lists more than decent. Chats and video calls (more on them later) can be staged among groups, and in the USA and Canada group members can use SMS rather than signing up for teams. All other features require a Microsoft account.
Microsoft is making a virtue of the fact that video calls can place all participants in a virtual space in which they’ll appear as torsos with the rest of their bodies hidden behind strategically placed furniture. A more conventional Brady Bunch interface is also offered.
Floating emojis appear to be enabled everywhere.
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Microsoft is pitching Teams personal as the COVID-era collaboration tool your family needs now – let’s just ignore that it hasn’t been safe to go outside for nearly 14 months and that Microsoft is more than a little off the pace.
The company appears to be trying to make up ground by being rather generous: one-to-one calls are free and can last 24 hours apiece. Group calls can involve 300 people for 24 hours, an offer Microsoft says will be “free until further specified” and exceeds a regular 100 participants for an hour free tier.
Even at the latter level, Personal features for Teams offers 100-person meetings 20 minutes longer than Zoom’s free offering. WhatsApp only allows eight person vid chats.
Microsoft has a billion-plus Windows users to tap with this new app, so it may well collect a colossal user base despite being a little late to market.
Now to explain it to your parents. ®