Microsoft's solution for COVID-19 is a free Teams subscription for six months

Google, too, is offering some of its Hangouts advanced features as employees are increasingly being asked to work from home in response to the coronavirus.

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Microsoft has responded to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, and the increased number of work-from-home policies it's inspired, by making its paid collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams, free for six months.

Microsoft began making a free version of Teams available in 2018, but the company reserved certain features for its paid version, available with a license. It’s some of those paid features that will now be made available to customers for free for six months with a new license, according to JP Courtois, Microsoft’s executive vice president and president of Microsoft global sales, marketing and operations.

Courtois announced the changes via a tweet, referencing a blog post that talked about the need for a solution like Teams as employees increasingly work from home, self-isolating themselves from the coronavirus, especially in Asia. The news was reported earlier by Thurrott.com

The free Teams trial is actually part of a new six-month Office 365 trial for enterprises (an “Office 365 E1 trial,” specifically), according to a Microsoft representative. It includes “full meetings, collaboration and workflow capabilities,” Microsoft says.

“At Microsoft, our top concern is the wellbeing of our employees and supporting our customers in dealing with business impact during this challenging time,” Microsoft said in a statement. “For many individuals and organizations, Microsoft Teams video-conferencing, chat and collaboration are playing an important role in helping people continue to work and collaborate. By making Teams available to all for free for six months, we hope that we can support public health and safety by making remote work even easier.”

Though the free version of Microsoft Teams is remarkably full-featured for a free offering, there do remain some differences between it and the paid offering. Key paid features include a terabyte of storage per user (consistent with an Office 365 subscription) as well as scheduled Teams meetings, meeting recording capabilities and phone calls and audio conferencing. However, the first option, scheduling Teams meetings for audio calling, will also be permanently added to the free version of Teams on March 10, the spokesman said.

Google isn’t sitting idly by, either. Google said Wednesday that it is giving away free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally in response to the coronavirus, including larger meeting of over 250 people per call; live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain; and the ability to record meetings and save them to Drive. 

Clarification: Some of the paid Teams features will be available as part of the free license, but not all of them.

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