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Microsoft Says Teams Video Calls Surging In Challenge To Zoom

The company is also debuting new video features for Teams, which saw 1,000 percent growth in video calls in March.

Microsoft is reporting a massive increase in video calls using its Teams collaboration app, while also rolling out new features in a bid to make Teams a stronger alternative to popular video meetings tools such as Zoom.

Teams includes group chats, instant messaging and video/audio meetings, and saw explosive growth in March as countless businesses shifted to work-from-home deployments amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft previously said that Teams added 12 million users during a single week in March, bringing the number of daily active users to 44 million.

[Related: Zoom Outage Tests Limits Of Cloud Videoconferencing]

However, online meetings tools that are primarily geared toward video, such as Zoom, appear to have garnered more attention when it comes to video calls during the work-from-home boom.

Teams is still seeing major adoption of its video meetings functionality though, said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in a blog post Thursday.

"As the world works remotely, it is no surprise people are turning on video in Teams meetings two times more than before many of us began working from home full-time," Spataro wrote.

During March, Teams calls and meetings that used video grew to 43 percent, from 21 percent previously, he said. All in all, Teams video calls grew by more than 1,000 percent during the month, according to Spataro, though a specific figure was not provided.

To help continue to fuel the growth of Teams video calls, Microsoft on Thursday announced several updates on video features for the platform.

Custom backgrounds for Teams video calls are now generally available, while a "raise hand" feature--to let meeting participants send a visual cue when they want to speak--will debut this month, Microsoft said.

Additionally, Microsoft said a new capability is available today for meeting organizers to instantly "end meeting" by clicking a button in the control bar. Real-time noise suppression will be released later this year, the company said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working to emulate Zoom by developing a gallery view so that users can see all participants in a video call, rather than the current two-by-two setup, The Verge reported. A timeframe for releasing the gallery view feature was not disclosed.

The moves should be a win for solution providers that have made Teams a focus, both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

Robby Hill, CEO of Florence, S.C.-based HillSouth, told CRN that his firm had already brought Teams to most of its customers prior to the coronavirus pandemic--and his company has embraced the tool internally, as well.

"I just know for us even internally our Teams usage is up 165 percent, which I think is awesome for our team to stay productive," Hill said. "We’re making use of Teams and our clients are making use of it because we had deployed Teams for 90 percent of our customer base before the virus became a threat."

Microsoft has been actively seeking to boost Teams usage during the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting rise in remote work. On March 5, Microsoft said it would offer a free Office 365 E1 subscription for six months to businesses and educational institutions that aren't currently licensed for Teams.

The company has said that certain free offers may see limits, however, as demand has spiked for Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. Since March 29, Microsoft has "placed limits on free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers," the company said in a previous blog post.

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