Microsoft has quietly started offering free trials of its premium Teams chat app to 'support public health and safety' amid the coronavirus outbreak (MSFT)


Jeff Teper, Microsoft Office 365 corporate vice president

  • Microsoft offered customers and partners free six-month trials of the premium version of its Teams chat app as more companies ask employees to work from home and pause most travel, the company said Tuesday.
  • Microsoft itself has instead asked employees to discuss any travel concerns with management, which some employees worry is insufficient as the outbreak spreads near Microsoft’s hometown.
  • Microsoft already offers a free version of Teams, but is allowing users to try out its more advanced features for free.
  • Collaboration tools like Teams stand to benefit from the coronavirus outbreak. Analysts expect Zoom, Slack, and Dropbox to benefit from increased usage. 
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Microsoft has informed customers and partners it will offer free six-month trials of the premium version of its Teams chat app as coronavirus fears lead to an increase in remote work, the company told Business Insider on Monday.

Teams already has a free version, but it places limits on certain features — free Teams users can’t record meetings, for instance, and they only get two gigabytes of file storage, to the full terabyte enjoyed by paying customers. What Microsoft is quietly offering here is a trial that includes all of those features.

That said, Microsoft also says that it plans to update the free app, beginning on March 10, to lift its restrictions on user limits and allow users to schedule meetings for video calling and conferencing.

“At Microsoft, our top concern is the wellbeing of our employees and supporting our customers in dealing with business impact during this challenging time,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. 

“For many individuals and organizations, Microsoft Teams video-conferencing, chat and collaboration are playing an important role in helping people continue to work and collaborate. By making Teams available to all for free for six months, we hope that we can support public health and safety by making remote work even easier.”

Similarly, Google on Tuesday said it would offer the premium version of its Google Hangouts Meet video-conference service to all G Suite customers.

On Monday, Business Insider reported that some employees are concerned Microsoft’s internal response to the outbreak is insufficient. Microsoft, according to an email reviewed by Business Insider, has stopped short of pausing business travel but asked employees to discuss any travel concerns with management.

Each of the seven deaths from COVID-19 – the illness caused by coronavirus – in the US at the time of this writing have occurred in Washington state, six of them in King County, home to Microsoft’s headquarters.

Two employees who spoke to Business Insider and wished to remain anonymous said the company’s response is “disappointing” and doesn’t measure up to the steps taken by other companies. Salesforce, for example, has paused nonessential travel for its 50,000 employees. 

Other Microsoft employees have also discussed on Twitter whether it’s appropriate to leave the decision about whether or not employees should travel up to their bosses.

“The health and safety of our employees is our top priority at Microsoft. We are providing real-time guidance to employees in all affected regions,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take action as necessary to help protect employees.”

Collaboration tools like Teams, bleakly, stand to benefit from the coronavirus outbreak as more companies ask employees to pause travel and work remotely. Coronavirus concerns have generally sent the market plummeting, but analysts expect cloud software companies like Zoom, Slack, and Dropbox to benefit from increased usage. 

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SEE ALSO: Microsoft’s big Windows reorg just went into effect — here are the 22 power players now running its Windows and cloud software businesses

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