When Microsoft rolled out its Microsoft Teams chat system last year, officials were adamant that there wouldn't be a free/consumer version of Teams. The only way to get Teams was to subscribe to an Office 365 business plan.
But Microsoft execs may have rethought this strategy, as indicated by references in a developer preview build of Teams, as noted on Petri.com this week. The Teams preview mentions "freemium storage" and "upgrade to paid version," according to Petri."
If Microsoft does opt to add a freemium tier, the move would not be all that surprising or unprecedented. For one, Microsoft's foremost chat-system competitor, Slack, already offers a free version.
And Microsoft went the freemium route with its Power BI business-intelligence offering in 2015. After originally offering only a paid verion, Microsoft added a free, entry-level tier of Power BI which could be upgraded to a more feature-rich version of the service that cost $9.99 per user per month.
Microsoft increasingly has been adopting the freemium model since at least 2015. With this kind of model, Microsoft is banking on the idea that an entry-level free tier -- and not just a free trial -- ultimately will result in growing the overall pool of users and their level of engagement.
I asked Microsoft whether and when the company may introduce a free, standalone version of Teams. No word back yet.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had nothing to share on the topic of Teams possibly going freemium.
Previous and related coverage
Microsoft is going to integrate Chalkup's classroom collaboration technology into Microsoft Teams for Education, as Chalkup shuts down in June.
Microsoft is starting to roll out what execs say is the biggest collection of new features for Teams since Microsoft introduced the service last March.
Microsoft is making good on its commitment to enable some advanced telephony capabilities in its Teams group-chat service.