Mar 19, 2020 - Technology

Microsoft Teams adding new features as demand increases

Microsoft Teams is adding an option to move chats to a separate window.

An example of the pop-out chat window option coming to Microsoft Teams. Photo: Microsoft

With the coronavirus pandemic putting increased attention on collaboration software, Microsoft is announcing a host of new features coming to its Teams product this year.

Why it matters: Microsoft sees Teams, which turns three years old this week, as a key growth product for the company. The product now has 44 million daily active users, up from 32 million a little over a week ago.

Among the features coming to Teams are two that are designed to address key complaints about virtual meetings. Coming later this year are improved audio that can mute distractions like a typing co-worker, pop-out chat windows and a "raise hand" feature that lets colleagues know when you'd like to speak.

The company is also adding support for new types of hardware including everything from head-mounted displays used by hard-hat workers to the video-and-sound systems used in conference rooms.

The big picture: Microsoft sees the coronavirus outbreak as a key moment for Teams, which it had already been pushing hard, including with pricey television ads.

"For many people this is the first time they are working remotely for a sustained period of time," said Katy Dundas, senior director of marketing for Microsoft Teams. "I don’t think work will go back to being the same when all this is over."

Yes, but: Microsoft Teams has already been hit with one outage this week, which affected customers in Europe.

Microsoft says that, since January 31, it has seen a 500 percent increase in Teams meetings, calling, and conferences in China and said that the outage in Europe was demand-related."

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