Microsoft is revealing new Teams features today to mark three years of the service just as it experiences unprecedented growth amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Teams suffered an outage on Monday as demand for the communication and chat app surged worldwide with people working and learning from home. The software giant counted 32 million daily active users of Teams last week on March 11th, but this jumped by 12 million to 44 million daily active users yesterday.
The nearly 40 percent increase in demand comes as many businesses adjust to remote work and school closures require the adoption of e-learning techniques. Microsoft’s new Teams features are designed to improve remote meetings as they become the default work mode rather than the pre-pandemic exception.
Microsoft is planning to introduce a new real-time noise suppression feature for Teams meetings later this year. This is especially ideal if you’re working from home and children or pets are running around making noise or when you’re trying to discretely dig into a bag of chips.
Microsoft is using artificial intelligence to remove background noise from calls automatically, focusing the attention of your microphone on what you’re actually saying instead of the noise around you. Alongside the noise suppression feature, Teams will also get a “raise hand” feature later this year. You’ll also be able to simply click a button to ask a question in particularly busy or large meetings.
Teams is also getting an offline mode for reading Teams chat messages and drafting responses when there’s no internet connectivity. Teams will also soon support the ability to pop out chats into separate windows, so you can quickly switch between conversations. All of these features are coming “later this year” and are clearly designed to improve meeting scenarios and remote working.
Microsoft sees the novel coronavirus pandemic as a turning point for remote working. “I really do think it’s an inflection point,” explains Microsoft 365 chief Jared Spataro. “We’re going to look back and realize this is where it all changed. We’re never going to go back to working the way that we did.”
Some of these remote working changes are already in place at Microsoft, as the company has been forced to test remote working at a large scale with its 50,000 employees in the Seattle region working from home. “It hasn’t been easy,” admits Spataro. “Sometimes it’s been downright disorienting. But our team is still connecting.”
Microsoft’s new Teams features and daily active numbers come just a day after its main competitor, Slack, launched its biggest redesign yet. Slack is improving the UI of its chat app, with a focus on more customization and simplification. Slack hasn’t provided an updated daily user count since October when it revealed 12 million daily active users, just short of Microsoft’s previous 13 million count.