Microsoft Teams: More AI Coming To Premium As Free Version Sunset Nears
Wade Tyler Millward
For users of the free version of Teams, on April 12 Microsoft will retire what it calls “Teams Free (classic)” and introduce a different free version called “Microsoft Teams (free).”
Microsoft has more artificial intelligence (AI) features planned for the premium version of Teams made generally available this month while users who want to stay with a free version of Teams may have to sacrifice the data they’ve generated in Teams thus far.
Next month, Teams Premium will gain automated reminder emails to help drive attendance for webinars. Next quarter, Premium will gain speaker timeline markers, AI-generated notes and AI-generated tasks and action items.
Teams Premium leverages the generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) language model that itself powers popular AI offerings from OpenAI, including ChatGPT and Dall-E. Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI.
For users of the free version of Teams, on April 12, will retire what it calls “Teams Free (classic),” with users able to switch to a different free version called “Microsoft Teams (free).” As a result, free users can not transfer saved files or data from channels, chats and recurring meetings into the new version of free Teams.
Alongside Teams Premium, Microsoft To Launch New Free Version
CRN has reached out to Microsoft for comment.
John Snyder, CEO of Net Friends – a Durham, N.C.-based MSP whose partners include Microsoft, Nextiva and Palo Alto Networks – told CRN in an interview that he requires all contract customers to have Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription or a similar or greater license, making the new version of free Teams a non-issue.
In fact, the free versions of Teams have only been offered direct from Microsoft, not by partners. And for more than a year now, the new free version of Teams has only been available for new customers.
As for Teams Premium – which Microsoft announced at Ignite 2022 in October – Snyder said he is excited for the current and coming AI features. All of these innovations are important for Microsoft partners to know not just sell customers on tools, but to educate them, Snyder said.
“As channel partners, we do need to be using these tools on the regular so we can speak to how it is to actually use them with our customers, or we need to stay on top of them … so you can drive conversations and not having conversations driving you onto your back heels,” he said.
Upcoming Teams Premium Features
Microsoft plans to expand Teams Premium’s personalized timeline markers in the future to include when someone’s name is mentioned and when a screen is shared. Screen sharing markers will go GA in April.
In mid-February, branded meetings will add the option for company logos and colors when users join a meeting.
In March, Microsoft will introduce automated reminder emails to Teams Premium. Confirmed registrants will receive the emails at a time set by the webinar host to ensure attendance. Emails will have custom-branded headers, webinar details and an event link.
Next month, Teams Premium will gain automated reminder emails to help drive attendance for webinars.
In April, Premium meeting recordings will gain timeline markers for when screens are shared. The markers will appear as icons above the video timeline.
Next quarter, speaker timeline markers, AI-generated notes and AI-generated tasks and action items will come to Teams Premium.
The speaker markers show who spoke during the meeting and when. It will allow users to jump to that moment in the recording. The markers are also organized by a users’ managers and which colleagues they work with most closely.
In a blog post announcing Teams Premium, Microsoft Teams Vice President Nicole Herskowitz positioned Teams Premium as a way for customers to consolidate on vendors for digital meeting and presentation technology.
“Today, many organizations not only pay for meeting solutions, but also purchase expensive add-on products for webinars, virtual appointments, meeting intelligence, and more,” she said in the post. “With Teams Premium, customers can get these advanced meeting capabilities and more for one low cost of USD10 per user per month.”
For Teams pricing, the premium offer is currently $7 a user a month for the initial subscription term except for some month-to-month and three-year annual billed monthly subscriptions, according to Microsoft.
The discount ends June 30, with prices returning to $10 a user a month. Users need Microsoft 365 or Office 365 licenses to upgrade to Premium.
Partners can enroll customer tenants in a trial in the Microsoft 365 administrative center, according to the vendor. Tenant administrators get a limited number of 30-day trial licenses for users.
Teams Premium is available to commercial and commercial public sector customers under Microsoft’s enterprise agreement (EA), enterprise subscription (EAS), Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and online (also known as web-direct). Nonprofit customers still receive standard discounting.
Teams Premium will launch for Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers on March 1.
Commercial Microsoft 365 and Office 365 license holders can also buy Teams Premium as an add-on per user per month.
A New Teams Free Version
Starting April 12, Microsoft will retire the current free version of Teams, known as “Teams Free (classic).”
A new version of free Teams will be available after April 12, but users will “have access to a different set of features” and can’t retain their data from the previous free version. This includes data from Teams channels, chats and recurring meetings, according to Mcirosoft.
Users who upgrade to Teams Essentials or Microsoft 365 can keep all of their features and data.
Microsoft encourages users to review what version of Teams they have before the April retirement.
Current Teams Premium Abilities
Teams Premium has some AI-powered features available already, including AI-generated chapters for PowerPoint Live meeting recordings. These chapters divide meetings into sections to make reviewing a meeting recording easier.
Also available are personalized timeline markers visible only to each user. Users can see when they joined or left a meeting in the recording to quickly see what they missed.
Premium gains new security capabilities, including watermarks on meetings to deter leaks and limited recording capabilities for extra security. End-to-end encryption is available. And Microsoft 365 E5 license holders can use Teams Premium with Microsoft Purview Information Protection sensitivity labels.
For IT administrators, customizable meeting templates are available to ensure correct settings for client calls, brainstorming sessions, help desk calls and other scenarios. Custom user policy packages are available for users with similar roles in an organization, applying the necessary restrictions, messaging policies and rules for external users.
For virtual appointments with Premium, users can offer branded lobby rooms available through text or email on any device browser without the need to download another application, according to Microsoft. Appointment queuing aims to help scheduling administrators manage scheduled and on-demand virtual appointments.
Department-level and organizational-level analytics are available for measuring business value and outcomes. Users can measure wait times, no-show rates and other factors.
For webinars, Teams Premium allows for virtual green rooms so presenters can prepare beforehand and have time to test run. Attendees can engage with presenters and one another through chat and question-and-answer (Q&A) options.
Presenters can use a registration waitlist and manual approval and cusotmize the registration start and end times.
The Microsoft Enterprise Content Deliver Network (eCDN) is included in Teams Premium for live streaming global meetings, town halls and other content using Teams Live Events. eCDN reduces the load on the corporate network to prevent connectivity failure and poor quality, according to Microsoft.
And for any meeting, Teams Premium allows for live translations in real time from 40 spoken languages. Meeting participants can turn on captions for their language of choice. Only meeting organizers need Teams Premium for all attendees to use live translations.