Users of the free version of Teams, the Microsoft 365 online collaboration platform, can now create video meetings.
The change, spotted by OnMSFT, means Teams free users can create a Teams meeting from their account, rather than only being able to join a meeting created by paying customers.
The move is likely to be another effort from Microsoft to go to battle with Zoom, the biggest winner in video calling and conferencing since the globalshoved the world toward teleworking.
"Meetings in Teams free is rolling out starting on June 2, 2020," Microsoft said in a support note for Microsoft 365, the collection of Microsoft products that Teams belongs to.
Zoom last week smashed Wall Street earnings expectations and reported it had seen an "unprecedented number of free participants", which the company views as opportunities to convert to paying customers in future. The free version of Zoom allows users to create meetings with others.
That offer has propelled Zoom user numbers dramatically in the past three months. Zoom reported 300 million daily meeting participants in April, up from 200 million in March, and up from just 10 million in December 2019.
Microsoft Teams, which launched in 2017, has grown from 44 million daily active users in March, 2020 to 75 million in April, 2020.
Microsoft is in a race against the clock to catch up with Zoom on video-conferencing capabilities.
Zoom supports up to 49 on-screen video-call participants while Microsoft Teams currently only supports nine in a 3x3 grid. Microsoft has admitted that nine is "not good enough". Some users have been complaining that having only nine visible participants isn't sufficient for hosting online classrooms during lockdown because teachers and instructors are trying to cater to many more people than the current limit allows.
Microsoft plans to bring Teams up to parity with Zoom but it hasn't said when it will deliver the feature.
The meetings feature for the free version of Teams will at least give Microsoft an opportunity to capitalize on users who don't pay now, but might at some point in the future.
Microsoft earlier this week enabled interoperability between Skype for consumers and Microsoft Teams to help businesses that use Teams connect with Skype consumers. It also rolled out pop-out windows for chat conversations.
Users of the free Teams now have the option to create a meeting from the browser version of Teams or the Teams app. In the app, you need to click the meetings icon on the left-hand side menu and then click 'Meet now'.
After hitting 'Join now', you can select 'Copy meeting link' or 'Invite via email' to invite new participants. Alternatively, users can schedule a meeting.
Screen sharing is available on the browser for Chromium-based Edge and Google Chrome, but Mac users will be prompted to change privacy settings to use this feature.