These features had been announced last year by Redmond.
Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is bringing its personal features to all the users across the desktop, the web and mobile versions. The personal features allow users to connect with family and friends via video calls in a manner similar to what they do with their colleagues and clients. These features, which had been available for preview on the iOS and Android mobile app of Teams in June 2020, are available to all users for free.
These features had been announced last year by Redmond, and they include video calling as well as group chats. In fact, for a more personalised experience, a ‘Together Mode’ is accessible in the video calls with friends and family. Using this, they would be able to simulate virtual environments like that in a living room or a coffee shop.
Moreover, Microsoft has also made it easy for people who do not have the Teams app installed to join the video call via the web version of the solution with the help of a sharable link. Live emoji reactions and GIFs are another feature that would be available to users when video calling with friends and family using Microsoft Teams.
But Redmond is not just hoping to target the mini family group chats and video calls. It is going beyond and also hoping to be the preferred platform for any family event by allowing users to invite up to 300 people in the Teams video calls, so that small ceremonies can also be hosted. This has been a trend increasingly seen during the lockdown, where people conducted various kinds of events at one location and had their loved ones participate virtually via either Zoom or Google Meet, and thus, it is no wonder that Teams is also offering this utility right at the start of positioning itself as an informal interaction solution as well.
In fact, in group chats, users will also be able to assign tasks and share to-do lists, and reports suggest that polls would also be included in the group chats at a later stage. To tackle the issue of someone not having a Microsoft account, Teams is allowing such users to participate in the group chats with the help of SMS messages.
Users who already have a professional account on Teams would be able to add a personal one to it so that they can begin to interact with their family and friends there itself. Since the features are being offered for free in view of the pandemic, users would be able to interact with up to a whopping 300 people at once for 24 hours at a stretch without having to pay any subscription fees.
With this, apart from taking on Zoom and Google Meet, which have been preferred much more by users than Teams since the pandemic started last year, Microsoft is also seemingly targeting platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal where family chat groups usually interact. While Zoom and Meet are direct competitors for Teams, and likely a sensitive spot for Redmond because their placement as both formal and informal platforms has worked well among users so far, Microsoft also could also benefit from the fact that since the beginning of this year, people have been trying to switch to other platforms from WhatsApp due to its controversial policy.
What would probably help Microsoft is that its personal features are distinctly meant for an informal setting rather than something just incorporated into the same professional features. Apart from that, for most of the youth, Microsoft has dominated the PC market since they were children and therefore, there is a feeling of implicit trust. As some of them look to leave WhatsApp, that trust could play at least a minor role in pushing people towards Teams to try out the features, if nothing else.
However, while all the features that Redmond has announced seem to be aimed at making these interactions light-hearted, informal and separate from a professional setting, we would need to wait and see whether it actually plays out that way as well.