Microsoft earlier this month flagged that Teams would support 49 on-screen video participants at some point in the future. Now it has confirmed that a preview of the video-call feature will be available this month, with general availability due by the fall.
The feature couldn't come sooner for a number of users, including teachers who have been obliged to use Teams or Zoom to host remote classrooms during the global coronavirus pandemic.
At the outset of the pandemic's spread to the US and Europe in February, Microsoft Teams only supported four simultaneous onscreen participants. Then in May it bumped it up to nine in a three-by-three grid, a limit that a Teams engineer admitted was "not good enough".
But as ZDNet reported this month, teachers and instructors have complained that nine on-screen participants doesn't match the reality that classrooms often have 30 students whom teachers need to observe.
Some teachers found clumsy workarounds, while others reported switching to a paid Zoom account even though they were Office 365 customers. Teams is bundled with Office 365 for Microsoft's enterprise and education customers.
"Really, really need the ability to see all participants in a meet like Zoom. As it is, we are having to pay extra for the Zoom abilities," a user called Barry wrote on the forum.
It's been a glaring feature gap between Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which already supports 49 on-screen participants. Due to this capability and general ease of use, video-first Zoom has seen daily meeting participant numbers explode during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing from 10 million before the health crisis to 200 million in March.
"That's why, coming to preview this month with general availability in the fall, we are expanding the Teams grid view to 7×7, which will accommodate up to 49 participants at once on a single screen. In the fall, educators will be able to create virtual Breakout Rooms so students can meet and collaborate in small groups," she added.