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Microsoft makes Teams consumer features generally available

Microsoft is moving a number of features from preview to general availability for consumer users of Teams and is adding 'Together Mode' backgrounds for personal use, as well.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is making a number of promised "personal" features for Teams generally available starting today. The features are going live for Teams on desktop, web and mobile devices. Microsoft also is adding new consumer-focused Together Mode scenes for Teams users on desktop and the web as of today, May 17.

Last year, Microsoft announced it would be adding personal/consumer features to its Teams product across platforms. (There is no separate Teams consumer app.) Microsoft is hoping that consumers might find Teams a useful productivity tool for managing group events and calendars; texting and video chatting with friends; assigning and tracking chats. Microsoft officials still have not said that they intend to replace Skype with Teams at any point in the foreseeable future.

Among the new features that are moving from preview to general availability today is the ability to engage in group chat via SMS for those not using Teams. Two-way SMS is available as of today in U.S., Canada and Mexico and partially available in the U.K., India, Brazil and Columbia. Officials said they are taking a "phased" approach to availability of this feature.

Officials also said they plan to add a polling feature for Teams consumer users which will be available "in the coming weeks."

Together Mode -- already available in Teams for business users -- turns a Teams video chat into a shared virtual environment and is designed to make people feel like they are all in the same place.

Personal features in Teams are available for free. Anyone with a work Teams account can add a personal account directly to it. Those who don't have Teams already can download the iOS, Android and/or desktop apps and sign up or use Teams inside any web browser.

Via Teams consumer, Microsoft allows people to meet one-on-one and speak up to 24 hours for free. For group calls, users can meet with up to 100 participants for 60 minutes for free. For now, Microsoft is waiving these limits due to the pandemic, and is allowing group chats with 300 participants and speak for up to 24 hours for free. 

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