Microsoft announced on Monday that its work chat app, Microsoft (MSFT) Teams, is now available for general consumers to help friends and family keep in touch.
Microsoft calls the update “personal features for Teams” to emphasize the fact that these aren’t meant to be used during your work life.
The idea is to make Teams more ubiquitous, similar to how people use apps like Google (GOOG, GOOGL) Chat both in the office and at home.
It’s also designed to get you to use Teams rather than your standard text or messaging app by adding a host of productivity features.
Those additions include Together mode for personal profiles, which is the video chat option in Teams that takes all of your chat participants and rearranges their headshots to look as though they’re all seated in the same location.
You may have seen the feature used during last year’s NBA season, when Teams users appeared in virtual stands at games. Optional locales include a family lounge, a coffee shop, or a summer resort.
Microsoft says Together mode is designed to help reduce the video chat fatigue that so many of us have developed over the course of the last year, by putting everyone you’re talking to front and center and eliminating the need to look from one corner of the screen to the next to see who you’re talking to.
The standout feature for the consumer version of Teams, though, is the ability to create chat groups and toss in things like polls, calendar invitations, and more.
The gist is that this allows you to use a single app for all of your organizing needs, rather than having to constantly jump between a number of apps.
Using Teams, we would start a chat, set up a calendar to figure out when we’ll leave for our vacation, put together a to-do list of things we’ll need to bring with us, and create a poll to determine what we we’ll do while away.
There’s always that one friend who refuses to download new apps? No worries, Microsoft says they’ll still get all of your Teams group messages via text, though they’ll miss out on things like emojis and gifs.
If you’re a Teams user, the addition of personal features sounds like a solid option. The app is already on your phone and you use it during the day at work, so why not use it to chat with your friends and family, as well. Microsoft, meanwhile, gets to grow its market share in the chat app space, and ensure that its name is in front of as many users as possible.