Enlarge / Microsoft Groups on completely different gadgets.

Microsoft

Ever since its introduction, Microsoft’s Groups—a collaboration instrument for chatting, sharing paperwork, video, and voice calling—has had one main competitor: Slack. Groups was clearly constructed as a response to Slack’s rising enterprise presence, with its mannequin of IRC-style chatrooms profitable hearts and minds.

So far, Microsoft has pushed Groups’ intensive integration with the corporate’s different merchandise—Workplace, Skype, SharePoint—as its main distinguishing function, however Slack has had one essential functionality that Groups has lacked. The beginning worth for Slack is free. The free model has all kinds of limitations—solely 5GB of information will be saved, solely 10,000 strains of chat will be considered, and integrations with different functions are restricted—but it surely’s sufficient to get a way of how the product works and the way it can slot in a corporation. The free model additionally implies that Slack has discovered a job in varied non-paying spheres, resembling open supply growth, serving the same function to the one as soon as served by IRC.

Right this moment, Microsoft is providing a free model of Groups that anybody can signal as much as and use. Just like the free Slack tier, there are limitations to the free Groups, however Microsoft has picked a really completely different set of restrictions than Slack’s. There isn’t any 10,000 message restrict—even free customers can entry and search all their chat historical past—and the info limits are considerably larger, at 10GB plus 2GB per individual. Free Groups helps group voice and video calling, too; Slack’s free tier is restricted to 1:1 video calls. Software integrations are unrestricted, and Microsoft is in fact persevering with to advertise the tie-ins with the web variations of Phrase, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Alternatively, the free Groups is proscribed to 300 folks. Slack, in distinction, has no such restrict.

Microsoft can also be selling some new options for all Groups customers, each paid and unpaid. Coming later this 12 months is a background blur function for video chatting. If this works in addition to it appeared to work in a short demo, it is going to be a welcome addition for these of us that do business from home, because it ought to do a high-quality job of masking the messy dwelling rooms and misbehaving cats that so typically conspire to make residence employees look rather less than skilled.

Microsoft can also be integrating its translation expertise to enhance collaboration between multi-language groups (out there now for paid customers, later within the 12 months without spending a dime ones). For paying customers solely, the corporate has additionally added computerized recording and transcription of video calls.

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