Microsoft launches public preview of new team for commercial customers

Microsoft is beginning to test its new version of Teams for Windows with enterprise customers participating in a public preview program. Similar updates are coming later this year for the Teams clients for Mac and web. The company said the new version will be twice as fast and users will be able to receive notifications from all their accounts. A toggle at the top allows users to go back to the classic version of Teams.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during an interview in Redmond, Washington March 15, 2023.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft announced Monday that it is beginning to roll out a faster new version of its Teams communications app for Windows to commercial customers enrolled in a preview program. The software will be available to all customers later this year, and Microsoft is also promising new versions of Teams for Mac and the web.

Since its debut in 2017, Teams has become the jewel of Microsoft 365, the subscription-based productivity software package formerly known as Office 365. Companies rushed to roll out Teams to keep their employees connected via video calls and text chats during the Covid pandemic. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in January that more than 280 million people use Teams each month, despite many workers commuting back to the office.

Microsoft Teams had some performance issues in 2020 that the company fixed. In 2021, when Teams usage was still growing, Microsoft began building a second generation of the software with the goal of improving performance, Jeff Teper, president of collaborative apps and platforms at Microsoft, said in an interview with CNBC .

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Reports of a new version of Teams circulated earlier this year. Teper said this caused “a lot of excitement” but he didn’t want Microsoft to announce the update until the program met an internal goal of being twice as fast as before while using half the memory as before.

The new version also includes improvements to simplify Teams, building on the more than 400 feature updates Microsoft shipped last year, some of which are designed to help Microsoft catch up with its competitors, Teper said. Competition comes from Salesforce-owned Cisco, Google, Slack, and Zoom.

Instead of showing some sort of ribbon for a chat, Teams hides multiple options behind a plus sign for people to click. It’s a concept that people have become accustomed to from other messaging apps, Teper said. For example, in Slack, users can upload documents or set reminders after clicking a plus sign below the area where they are typing messages.

During Teams video calls, the software displays each participant on the screen in an equally sized box, rather than giving more space to participants with cameras on. Until now, Teams calls sometimes resembled paintings by Piet Mondrian, characterized by their squares and rectangles of different sizes and colors, Teper said.

Microsoft is also adapting Teams to make it easier for people who belong to multiple organizations to keep track.

“Instead of logging in and out of different tenants and accounts, you can now stay logged in to all of them – regardless of which one you’re currently using, you’ll get notifications,” Teper wrote in a blog post.

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Company employees who are given access to the new version of Teams will see a toggle at the top of the application window that allows them to revert to what Microsoft calls the classic version, he wrote in the blog post.

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