With millions of people under quarantine due to the coronavirus, services like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft 365 (which business and education offerings encompasses Microsoft Teams) have become highly popular. Microsoft says meetings on its Teams service hit a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day. That marks a significant increase of 200% from 900 million in mid-March.
That figure includes just meetings in Teams, but the company’s newly released Work Trend Index report is now showing the meaning behind the numbers and how the desire to connect online is changing the way people work, live, and much more.
Human connections through video chats
According to Microsoft’s new statistics, people are finding a more human connection through video. The company says that people are now turning on video in Teams meetings two times more than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Total video calls in Teams have grown by over 1,000%
There’s a good reason why, too. Microsoft Teams already has features that help make video chatting easier, and more are on the way. That currently includes background blur, which helps conceal your background during a call. Other features like “raise hand” and real-time noise suppression will be coming as well.
“Video has taken on increased importance during this time. Background blur has gone from a nice-to-have feature to a must-have feature,” Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, told Digital Trends. “Now, as all of us have turned our homes into offices, it has become a must-have feature.”
According to Microsoft, people in Norway and the Netherlands turn on video and use it the most, with about 60% of meetings in the country including video. Here in the United States, the number is roughly 38%, and in the United Kingdom, it’s about 47%.
When video calls aren’t enough
The connections that users are making through Teams are going beyond just video. One example is Microsoft Stream, where teachers can record Microsoft Teams meetings as lessons to be saved for later. Microsoft says that the number of Stream videos in Teams per week has increased by more than five times in the last month, with hundreds of hours of video uploaded per minute.
Spataro says that where videoconferencing just isn’t enough is where Teams is best. While he admits that while it is an important part of being productive, there is also the need to have a combination of chat and videoconferencing, as well as other things.
“The thing about Teams is that it offers you two things. You can connect with people but you also have this persistent context that stays between connections,” said Spataro. “That, for learning and getting things done, is incredibly important.”
For the average family, that could be a child getting homework done, or someone submitting a report or a proposal. Compared to Zoom or Slack, this is where Teams really shines and what makes it different. It has integrations with the Microsoft Office apps and other Microsoft services like OneNote. It’s also why Microsoft reports that Teams for Education is now used by 183,000 tenants in 175 countries.
Teams for Education is even picking up some highly requested features, too, like and end meeting feature that will allow meeting organizers to end a meeting for all participants with one click. There’s even a participant report feature coming soon, which will allow meeting organizers to see join and leave times.
Microsoft isn’t necessarily concerned about its competition.
That’s all well and good, but Slack and Zoom are equally as popular as Teams. Slack reported roughly 12.5 million simultaneously connected users on March 15. Zoom, meanwhile, has also gained in popularity, adding 2.2 million monthly active users in 2020, according to some experts.
Asked about the popularity and differences between Skype, Teams or, Zoom, Spataro again highlighted Teams features and hinted at a reason Microsoft isn’t necessarily concerned about its competition. Looking at data from China from before and after COVID-19, Microsoft says there are still more than two times the number of new Teams users each day in China compared to the end of January.
“I predict that will not hold for a competitor like Zoom,” Spataro told us. “Zoom is seeing what is very much a temporary boost, but I am encouraged by the data in China, where once you get people on the Teams platform, they continue to use the tool even as they go back to more in person.”
Zoom has also recently been criticized for its security flaws, an area Microsoft takes quite seriously. On an FAQ page, the company states that it “does not use your data for anything other than providing you with the service that you have subscribed to.”
More importantly, the company also claims it does not scan your email, documents, or teams for advertising or for purposes that are not service-related. Microsoft also doesn’t have access to your uploaded content and highlights five specific privacy points in a separate blog post.
“This is a place where we have a very strong heritage. It is just woven into our DNA, to ensure that privacy and security are a core part of our product,” said Spataro.
Changing the way we work, across the world
With everyone going online for work, school, and social interactions due to COVID-19, there’s no doubt that everyday life is changing. In its data, Microsoft says that people now embracing a more flexible work schedule.
Looking at Teams data, it says the average time between a person’s first and last use of Teams each day increased by more than an hour. The number of weekly Teams mobile users grew by more than three times from early February to March 31. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as Microsoft has always been heavy on productivity apps with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.
Weekly Teams mobile users grew by more than three times in just a couple of months.
With the mobility number in mind, though, we asked Spataro more about how Teams and its popularity will fit in with the company’s hardware and new devices like the Surface Duo and the Surface Neo.
“We’re super-excited about that. We’ve done this once already with Surface and the Surface Pro […] where we created a new category. We’re trying to do the same again here with some innovation,” said Spataro.
According to Spataro, Microsoft wants to be where people are, including Windows, iOS, and Android. The company seems determined to be good at helping people be productive. That includes coming up with new form factors, approaches, and devices, because of how they marry together hardware, software, and the cloud.
In hospitals specifically, Teams is being used in three ways, Including between shifts to keep nurses and doctors connected while they are on call. Another use is for videoconferences and communications across boundaries. For example, at Wenzhou Medical University in China, Microsoft Teams was used to enable health care staff inside the quarantined section of the hospital to communicate with non-quarantined staff.
“Doctors and nurses need to stay in touch with each other, Teams allows them to do that, and what’s awesome about that is we see mobile usage increase, and that’s a number one thing in health care,” said Spataro.
Finally, Teams is also used in telemedicine, with a Booking feature that lets hospitals and doctors send out invites to patients. All these uses have come into play at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania.
Teams is coming soon to your personal life, too
Teams is soon coming to your personal life, too. The company is planning to offer “Teams for Consumer,” which will let you switch between and sign in with a personal account in Teams on iOS and Android to communicate with friends and family.
“We see almost no products that marry up that communication with the persistent context that allows people to have repeated interactions that is focused on helping them achieve their objectives. We just know that value is welcomed by people, and will be valuable in the consumer context,” said Spataro.
It’s meant to help you bring together the personal important information you need in your chat (upcoming events, shared locations, and files) and is a bit different from WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. It also shows that Teams is increasing in popularity and evolving to be for more than just work.
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