Microsoft says Teams communication app has reached 44 million daily users

Key Points
  • Microsoft is launching custom backgrounds, a feature that's proven popular with Zoom
  • Slack hasn't provided an updated user number in five months.
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., gestures as he speaks during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft's Teams service for calling and chatting with colleagues has over 44 million daily active users, up from 20 million in November, the company said on Thursday. The disclosure puts even more distance between Teams and its closest competitor, Slack.

The growth demonstrates that Microsoft can still attract fresh organic interest in its longstanding Office productivity software franchise. That increasing popularity could help the company retail Office customers that might otherwise start looking at other products, like Slack or video-calling service Zoom

The recent rush to adopt tools for virtual meetings as COVID-19 coronavirus forces people to work from home isn't hurting Microsoft's campaign. The spread of the virus has also attracted more people to Slack and Zoom, as well as  RingCentral, a provider of cloud-based phone and messaging services, and the Webex video calling tool from Cisco.

The new 44 million figure for Teams was for Wednesday; there were 32 million daily users last Wednesday, March 11. Slack most recently provided engagement statistics in October, saying that there were 12 million daily active users of the app in September.

"COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world. We believe it will be a turning point for the way people will work and learn," Jared Spataro, a Microsoft corporate vice president, wrote in a statement the company provided in an email on Wednesday. "Our customers have certainly turned to Teams during this challenging time, and we've seen usage spikes in markets most impacted by COVID-19."

This week there were 14 times more Teams users in the Netherlands than there were one week earlier, Spataro told CNBC during a video call on Teams on Tuesday. There were 10 times more users in Spain and seven times more in France, he said. Accenture, Continental AG, Ernst & Young, Pfizer and SAP are among the 20 customers with over 100,000 active users of Teams, Spataro said.  

Slack said on Thursday that it added 7,000 new paid customers between February 1 and March and 18 and that it added 5,000 new paid customers in the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year that ended on January 31. "Deep engagement and real activity is what matters here and, with more than 5 billion actions taken on our platform every week, Slack has established ours with significant advantages in scalability, platform depth and integrations, compliance features, security and usability," a Slack spokesperson wrote in an email on Thursday.

Teams is included in corporate subscriptions to Office 365 bundle. There were more than 200 million commercial Office 365 monthly active users in the third quarter.

Microsoft is bringing new features to Teams, including the ability to upload and show a custom background behind themselves on video calls, rather than using stock images. That capability has been popular in Zoom for months.  

Microsoft will deliver technology that hides noises like typing or rustling through pages during video calls so that users can hear what speakers are saying. Users who want to speak up on crowded calls will be able to hit a button to display an icon of a raised hand. And users will be able to read and write chat messages even without an internet connection.

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