(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)


Microsoft dropped a surprise release today: a free preview version of Teams, its competitor to Slack, which just got a lot more competitive. Teams was previously only available to Office 365 subscribers, while anyone could use Slack. The preview version of Teams lacks a few features (see below), but it's poised to make a big dent in the business messaging market.

In addition to using Teams within your web browser, native apps are available for Android, iOS, Windows 7, Windows 10, and MacOS. The current app description on the Google Play Store still references Office 365, but when we installed it on an Android phone, there was an option to sign up for free.

SEE: Slack instant messenger app gets improved search for messages, people, and shared files.

What the free version of Microsoft Teams gets you

Like the paid version, which starts at $5 per user per month (compared to $8 a month for Slack, or $6.67 if billed annually), you get unlimited messages, unlimited search, guest access, integration with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, audio and video conferencing, screen sharing, and channel meetings.

You also get 2GB of storage per user, and 10GB of shared storage. That's not much compared to a paid OneDrive or Google Drive account, but it should be fine for text documents and basic spreadsheets. If you upgrade to a paid Teams account, you get 1TB (1,024GB) of OneDrive storage.

For reference, the free version of Slack provides 5GB of shared storage for the whole group, while the standard paid plan gives each user 10GB, and the Plus plan gives each user 20GB. Also, the free version of Slack limits your searches to the 10,000 most recent messages, and you don't get screen sharing.

There's also an ecosystem of Teams "apps," but they serve to extend Teams' functionality, so they're more like browser add-ons than standalone products. You can integrate Asana, Google Analytics, GitHub (recently purchased by Microsoft), Salesforce, Trello, Zendesk, YouTube, and dozens of other services and products. Microsoft claims over 140 such apps are available. Within Teams, you can search for them by name, browse by category -- or even upload your own custom app.

FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter to keep up with the latest app news.

What you get from a paid Teams account

Forking over the dough unlocks a number of things, including: integration with OneDrive and Microsoft Exchange, meeting scheduling, meeting recording, phone calls, and phone conferencing.

However, that 2GB from the free tier is technically OneDrive storage, so it's not clear what distinction Microsoft is making. When we loaded up the web browser version of the free Teams, there was definitely a OneDrive section.

The first time you open the free version of Teams, you'll see a banner advertising an upgrade to Office 365, which includes the paid version of Teams. Keep in mind that you don't have to commit right away; all tiers of Office 365 come with a 30-day free trial.

Takeaways

  1. Microsoft isn't holding much back from free Teams users. The storage capacity is arguably the main thing. 2GB can get pretty cramped if you're uploading a lot of presentations and large spreadsheets. Still, it's better than the 5GB of shared storage that the free version of Slack gives you.
  2. While Microsoft offers a few things to free users that Slack does not, and its paid plans are less expensive, Slack had 8 million daily active users as of May this year, double the number from October 2016. Microsoft, meanwhile, prefers to couch its numbers in how many businesses are using Teams, which stands at 200,000. It has never said how many daily active users are on Teams, which indicates that the magic number is substantially lower. If Microsoft is reading this, they're welcome to drop me a line and prove me wrong.

Also see

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.