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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."

Go deeper

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.