Microsoft has launched Teams Essentials, a standalone version of Microsoft Teams, its communication and collaboration platform for businesses. The standalone offering is aimed at small businesses and brings core features of Teams at a lower price. It’s essentially a middle-ground for businesses that don’t require a Microsoft 365 subscription but the free Teams plan isn’t enough either.
Priced at $4 per user per month, Microsoft claims Teams Essentials is the “most affordable all-in-one solution” available in the current market. It offers unlimited one-on-one and group video calls for up to 30 hours. You can host up to 300 people at once. By comparison, the free Teams plan has a 60-minute time limit for meetings. It also only allows a maximum of 100 participants.
Teams Essentials comes with 10GB of cloud storage — twice as much as the free plan — so you can view, edit, and store Office 365 files with the peace of mind. Microsoft is further promising integration with Outlook Calendar as well as Google Calendar (coming soon).
Microsoft is also offering tools like meeting lobby, virtual backgrounds for calls, live closed captions, live reactions, and Together mode, a feature that displays attendees in a meeting in the same virtual space. Other Teams features such as support for Office web apps, persistent conversations, file sharing, group chats, task management, and polls, etc. are available as well.
Microsoft may be going after Zoom with Teams Essentials
As said earlier, Teams Essentials is a standalone service. You can invite anyone to a meeting by using their email address. They will receive a link to join the meeting. If they don’t have Teams installed on their device, the meeting will open directly in their browser. They don’t need to sign in anywhere.
Microsoft already offers a Microsoft 365 Business Basic plan that costs $5 per user per month (increasing to $6 in March 2022) and comes with a bunch of added perks over Teams Essentials. You get 1TB of cloud storage, meeting recording and transcripts, real-time translation, Office mobile apps, and much more. So Teams Essentials makes many compromises as a cheaper, standalone service.
However, Microsoft may have bigger plans. The company seems to have created Teams Essentials as a competitor to Zoom. The company is doing away with the Slack-like channels interface of Teams. Instead, the new offering features a simplified chat interface with a focus on meetings and video calls. The Windows giant may be targeting it at businesses that already use rival services for their video conferencing needs.