Microsoft Teams vs Zoom: We're working on 49 on-screen video-callers too, says Microsoft

Microsoft reckons it's got 49 Teams video-call participants on its roadmap, but there's no timeframe for delivering it.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

On the heels of Zoom's stellar Q1 earnings report, Microsoft has confirmed that it is aiming to match Zoom's support for up to 49 on-screen video-call participants. 

Microsoft bumped up the number of visible Teams video-call participants from four to nine in May amid its push to capitalize on Teams' growth as teleworking became the norm during the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.   

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has now confirmed it will expand the number of on-screen participants to 49, matching the current limit Zoom offers. 

SEE: Microsoft Teams: The complete starter guide for business decision makers

Microsoft hasn't published that plan on its Office 365 roadmap, of which Teams chat and video calling are a part. The company also hasn't indicated when the expanded video call feature will roll out. 

However, Microsoft has confirmed to ZDNet that its roadmap does include support for 49 visible participants on a Teams video call but declined to provide a timeframe for the feature's availability. 

An engineer on Microsoft Teams admitted on the Teams user forum that its current 3x3 format is a start "but not good enough". 

"We are continuing to work to include more videos during a meeting, as well as enabling support for mobile devices. Hence, the 'partially done' status," the Microsoft engineer wrote

Microsoft is under pressure to expand the number of participants on screen to meet the needs of users for whom a limit of nine participants isn't practical. 

This week it rolled out Teams and Skype for Consumer interoperability, but every day Microsoft Teams continues to only support nine on screen video participants, it risks losing Office 365 customers to Zoom. 

Several teachers and instructors have commented on the forum that nine simply isn't enough to support their remote classroom activities.    

"I mean, nine is Okay, but I run a dance school and need to see as many of my students at once to help them with how to improve. At the moment I have resorted to pinning and unpinning different people to try and cycle through them. Not ideal," wrote an anonymous commenter. 

"We are using the recordings to observe nine students connected during call (online exam) but we are not able to observe the movements of nine students but only four in recording," wrote another. 

Teams user Kenny Pierce says he's migrating the school he works at from Teams to Zoom because of the nine-person limit. 

"To add to the frustration, and while I applaud the addition of nine panes, it seems even more a confusing mess now. I am currently training our school to migrate to Teams from Zoom. This is hands down the biggest frustration for our teachers."

Another Teams user, Sally Ri, said the nine-person limit has forced her non-profit organization to Zoom, even though it can't afford a paid Zoom account, all because she can't interest anyone in trying Teams for a video meeting that's capped to nine participants on screen. 

SEE: Zoom video conferencing: Cheat sheet (free PDF)

Microsoft nonetheless has seen its daily active Teams users grow massively during the pandemic, rising from 44 million in March to 75 million in April

But it looks like Zoom is growing even faster than Microsoft Teams. Zoom this week reported its daily meeting participants were now 300 million, up from just 10 million in December 2019, and 100 million more than the 200 million daily participants it reported in March when it suspended new feature development to focus on its security issues.

Microsoft has touted its record in security and privacy to promote Teams and in leaked internal marketing videos Microsoft has considered Zoom an "emerging threat" to Teams. But Zoom's growth suggest it could already be more than that and remain the go-to video-calling app even after teleworking ends. 


Microsoft has confirmed it will expand the number of on-screen participants from nine to 49, matching the current limit Zoom offers.   

Image: Microsoft
Editorial standards