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

19 mins ago - World

Nuclear free-for-all: The arms control era may be ending

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have remained unreplicated for 75 years in part because the U.S. and Soviet Union — after peering over the ledge into nuclear armageddon — began to negotiate.

Why it matters: The arms control era that began after the Cuban Missile Crisis may now be coming to a close. The next phase could be a nuclear free-for-all.

Pelosi, Schumer demand postmaster general reverse USPS cuts ahead of election

Schumer and Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Thursday calling for the recent Trump appointee to reverse operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that "threaten the timely delivery of mail" ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: U.S. mail and election infrastructure are facing a test like no other this November, with a record-breaking number of mail-in ballots expected as Americans attempt to vote in the midst of a pandemic.

2 hours ago - Science

CRISPR co-discoverer on the gene editor's pandemic push

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired and BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the development of CRISPR-based tests for detecting disease — and highlighting how gene-editing tools might one day fight pandemics, one of its discoverers, Jennifer Doudna, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Testing shortages and backlogs underscore a need for improved mass testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic tests based on CRISPR — which Doudna and colleagues identified in 2012, ushering in the "CRISPR revolution" in genome editing — are being developed for dengue, Zika and other diseases, but a global pandemic is a proving ground for these tools that hold promise for speed and lower costs.