Microsoft Finally Brings Consumer Features to Teams

Posted on May 17, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Consumer Services, Microsoft 365 with 26 Comments

Microsoft announced today that it is making new consumer features available in its flagship productivity tool, Microsoft Teams. The software giant has been promising to do so since early last year, with many assuming that Teams could one day replace Skype, even with consumers. But to date, all we’ve seen are some minor updates to the Teams mobile clients.

“From online calls that will make you feel like you’re in the same place as your loved ones to group chats that will make coordinating plans with your loved ones a breeze, these personal features in Teams are designed to bring you closer to the people you care about so that you can call, chat, plan, and organize things big and small – together in one place,” Microsoft corporate vice president Liat Ben-Zur says. “As millions of employees around the world know, Microsoft Teams is already a leading solution for work communications and collaboration. But much of our lives are spent collaborating with people outside of work. In fact, listening to our customers, we have learned that families are craving tools to help them better connect, plan, coordinate, and share together online.”

Here’s what’s new in Teams.

Video calls. Together mode, which Microsoft describes as a “key feature of Teams,” now works with calls to family and friends, and it comes with new virtual environments such as a family lounge, coffee shop, and a summer resort. Personal calls also support live emoji reactions and GIFs, video call links so anyone can join, and space for up to 300 people on a call.

Chats. The Teams Chat experience now supports adding people via their email or phone number. And people who don’t have or want to use Teams can participate in Chats over SMS messaging on their smartphones. In chats, you can create shared to-do lists and assign tasks to anyone, convert chat messages into tasks, and, soon, create polls. Each chat also gets a dashboard view that organizes its shared content, including photos, files, web links, shared tasks, and upcoming group events.

Life management. With the addition of consumer features in Teams, users can now manage their whole life in Teams instead of maintaining multiple apps and services. But it also keeps personal and work-related information separate so that you can maintain the proper work/life balance, Microsoft says: All files, contacts, chats, and other information for each account is kept separate, and you can switch between these accounts by selecting the profile icon at the top of the app.

These new consumer features are available in Teams on desktop, mobile, and web starting today, for free, globally. To get started, just click the profile icon and add a personal account.

That said, there are some restrictions (because of course there are). Chatting via SMS is available in “limited countries” but will be made available to other geographic locations on a rolling basis, Microsoft says. Location sharing must be enabled and active for these features to work. And calls have some time restrictions. One-on-one calls are good for 24 hours for free, but group calls support up to 100 participants for up to 60 minutes for free normally. But Microsoft says it is waiving the call limits for now because of the pandemic and is temporarily supporting calls with up to 300 participants for 24 hours.


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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Microsoft Finally Brings Consumer Features to Teams”

  1. brothernod

    Sweet. I can finally get off GroupMe.

  2. lvthunder

    So to use all these new features do I need a personal account or will they work with my existing account. Some of that would be useful with chats between coworkers.

  3. daelra

    I love Teams. I hate Teams. I love the workflow benefits and the everything in line place aspect of Teams so for certain scenarios, it's amazing. However, it's a massive walled garden and using it with multiple accounts is just too painful with the business one. If they can get the multiple tenants (or whatever the personal group is called) problem sorted, then it would be the biggest boon for the platform.

    Some sort of team ownership sharing is needed, especially for personal accounts.

    Let's say I'm a member of a sports club formed by me and a group of friends. Wouldn't it be great to have a team for that? Trouble is, it has to reside on someone's personal account so what happens if circumstances change and the owner can't maintain it any longer?

    There's a big opportunity for teams personal to focus on 'community document sharing' but we need to be able to transfer/share ownership for this to work.

    • fpalmieri

      You can create a microsoft account for the "team" and then hand that off to someone else if you leave the team. Join the team also with your personal email and just use the email/account you created for "admin" purposes.

  4. justme

    I suppose I shouldnt be surprised at the continued complication of the already complicated complex of a computational collective known as Teams. Do they really believe this will take off in a non-business environment? Will there be ads? Will it have end-to-end encryption? When you have to use Teams for work - do you really want Teams in your private life? Part of work-life balance is being able to separate work from the rest of life. Kindof hard to do that when everything is under one umbrella - and as much as Microsoft may say that you can have personal and business accounts, we all know that said accounts will eventually blend.

    What good are all of the things Teams can do when you really just want to chat with friends or family, or maybe text your missus that you are going to be late or that the grocery store was out of your brand of detergent when she sends you on an errand? Will the next required accessory be a toilet seat be fitted with sensors to detect your presence upon the throne and alert Teams to tell you that you might be in need of a wipe?

    I jest, of course. I just feel that while Teams may work in a business environment, Microsoft is overcomplicating it for any other space.

  5. abiyoya

    Please help me understand why Skype is or will still be needed?

    Seems like Microsoft (excellent) efforts towards Business and Personal Teams can also been seen as MS shooting their own $8.56 billion Skype acquisition in the foot...

    • Paul Thurrott

      Well, for starters because this change doesn't replace Skype with Teams. There's no way to "federate" your Skype contacts list with Teams.
  6. cnc123

    Any word on encryption or privacy, or should we expect that Microsoft these private conversations to be data mined?

  7. brothernod

    Flipping through the Dashboard for this on my phone, it feels a lot like something I recall Windows Phone promising back in the day. I remember a family calendar and group chat. I'd be entertained to see how this compares to that vision from, what 6 years ago?

  8. ponsaelius

    It turns out I created a free account and a personal account with the same email address. Now I can't delete either and just have one teams org. Seems annoying you can't delete an org.

    Solution is just to use Skype. I think it seems too complex for personal use. Obviously it's really good for business. I am not really sure of the point.

  9. anoldamigauser

    "With the addition of consumer features in Teams, users can now manage their whole life in Teams instead of maintaining multiple apps and services."

    At this point, I think most people have pretty much chosen the technologies that work for their family and friends. This seems a day late and a dollar short.

    • bluvg

      Many families probably have something in place, but would gladly trade it for something that does it better. So many families I know pretty much stick to SMS and Facebook, which don't scratch nearly the same itch.

  10. vladimir

    I don’t completely understand the limits. 24hours for one on one call over what period of time? In a month? Per call?

    • brothernod

      I believe that’s call length. So if you call 1 person and just chat chat chat the call ends automatically at 24 hours.

  11. lvthunder

    Does anyone really want to have a 300 person call? Even if you have 300 people in the same room they break off into smaller groups that sometimes change up throughout the night. Like a wedding for instance.

    • jgraebner

      I think the 300 maximum would mainly be for the types of non-work events that are usually done in person in the non-pandemic world, such as school PTA meetings or church services.

    • JerryH

      Sounds like a 300 person call with breakout rooms. But Microsoft needs to fix the issue where only the creator of the meeting can manage breakout rooms. We need to be able to assign that task to other users.

  12. bluvg

    Shared tasks/To Dos? That's a pretty big deal--looking forward to check that out.

    Unless I missed it, the docs mention calendar, but not specifically shared calendar ("add it to everyone's calendar" suggests individual calendars--which is still great--but not a family calendar). Does anyone know if that's part of it? If you can see all the Tasks and a shared Calendar, that would be killer.

  13. bart

    Any news on Skype/Teams federation? Been in the news, or rumormill, for quite a while.

  14. shark47

    Isn't Skype more of a household name? This is nuts.

    • Stokkolm

      To be fair, I think Microsoft has pretty well driven Skype's once good name into the ground.

  15. Pierre Masse

    I'll stay on Skype since I have no job, no friends and that my family ignore me except for Christmas ;)