Written By:  Todd Bishop |  Published:  4/8/2020
Office 365 Microsoft Teams Collaboration Communication Beyond the Workplace

Microsoft previews new Teams family features in broader push to expand Office beyond work

Microsoft will add new features for individuals and families to its Teams collaboration and communication app, seeking to expand further beyond the workplace and into the personal lives of its users.

Updates previewed this morning for Teams include tools for connecting and communicating with family and friends, coordinating schedules, and making personal video calls. Microsoft originally launched Teams as a response to Slack in the workplace, but Microsoft is now looking to give the app a broader footprint.

The idea is to turn Teams into “one app to help manage work and life,” said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft corporate vice president, in a blog post Monday outlining the updates. The company didn’t announce a specific release date but said the new capabilities will be available in preview “in the coming months.”

The updates come as record numbers of people work from home amid the COVID-19 crisis. The situation has resulted in a surge in usage of Microsoft Teams, while also spotlighting the decline in relevance of Skype in the nine years following the tech giant’s $8.5 billion acquisition of the video calling and chat service.

However, in the blog post this morning, Microsoft’s Mehdi said the company has seen a recent increase in Skype usage, to 40 million daily users, up 70 percent month over month, with a 220 percent increase in Skype-to-Skype calling minutes compared with the prior month. The company also recently introduced a new Skype feature called “Meet Now” that aims to streamline the process of creating video meetings.

It’s part of a broader effort by Microsoft to expand its Office business apps for personal and family use — potentially posing a new challenge to popular consumer technology services, while attempting to keep some of its best-known franchises relevant in an increasingly blended world of work and personal life.

Also announced by Microsoft this morning:

  • Starting April 21, Microsoft will offer personal and family subscriptions under the Microsoft 365 brand, no longer using the Office 365 name. A personal subscription will cost $6.99/month, while a family plan with up to six users will cost $9.99/month, the same price as existing Office 365 subscriptions.
  • Microsoft Editor, the company’s grammar-checking technology, will be available across Microsoft Word, Outlook.com and as browser extensions for Chrome and Microsoft Edge, with advanced features for paid personal and family subscribers.
  • A new service called “Money in Excel” will be available for Microsoft 365 subscribers, with tools for automatically tracking spending and other key financial metrics.
  • New features in Microsoft Outlook on the web will let users link their personal and work calendars while also maintaining privacy restrictions.
  • The company’s “Play My Emails” feature for the Outlook mobile app, which reads important email out loud to help people catch up, is expanding beyond iOS to Android, also in “the coming months.”
  • Microsoft Family Safety, available to Microsoft 365 subscribers, will help parents manage screen time across Windows, Android and Xbox, along with features such as location sharing, automated driving reports for younger drivers, and online safety and privacy tools.