September 9, 2020
Microsoft plans to include free audio conferencing with Teams along with a 35% discount off its new Advanced Communications option.
The promotion is Microsoft’s latest effort to make Teams an appealing option for meetings and communications. While Microsoft Teams meetings usage has grown exponentially this year because of COVID-19, so have rivals’, especially Zoom and Cisco. Microsoft 365 customers can get the free audio conferencing service for 12 months. Likewise, they are eligible for the Advanced Communications discount. Microsoft is not placing a maximum number of users in an organization that can use either or both offers.
Microsoft’s Nicole Herskowitz
“We are committed to helping organizations everywhere stay connected,” Teams GM Nicole Herskowitz said, announcing the offer. Launched last month, the Advanced Communications option provides enhanced Teams meetings features not included with the base offering.
Notably, Advanced Communications extends the number of attendees who can participate in Teams meetings. It costs $12 per user, per month, above the Teams license included with commercial Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
Industry analyst Irwin Lazar, a VP at Nemertes, believes Microsoft is responding to recent announcements by 8×8 and RingCentral. Both leading UCaaS providers recently announced they are integrating their telephony and videoconferencing capabilities around Microsoft Teams.
Nemertes’ Irwin Lazar
“Adding in free conferencing and reducing the licensing costs for Teams calling features should make adopting the Teams phone system features more attractive for those using Teams for messaging and meetings,” Lazar said.
Scott Gode, chief product marketing officer of managed service provider Unify Square, a Microsoft and Zoom partner, agreed.
“This announcement totally makes sense for Microsoft, given not just the COVID-19 situation, but the competitive marketspace in general,” Gode said.
The free audio conferencing option will help Microsoft seed usage of it, Gode added.
Unify Square’s Scott Gode
“Microsoft will apply a ‘freemium’ type offer to help get both net-new customers as well as a larger percentage of total users within current customers to use Teams,” he said. “Customers win by receiving short-term cost savings to help out with current budgeting pressures.”
First Dibs for Customers with Enterprise Agreements
Microsoft’s promotion will initially be available on Oct. 1 to customers with Microsoft Enterprise Agreements. Partners will have to wait until the end of the calendar year before they can offer the discount. Microsoft is also offering the promotion to customers who buy Microsoft 365 directly online.
However, the gap does not appear that significant. The most compelling reason customers will want Advanced Communications is for the ability to hold meetings with up to 1,000 attendees. That feature, which also allows 20,000 view-only attendees, isn’t scheduled to go live until December.
The only features now available with Advanced Communications include limited ability to hold live events for up to 20,000 attendees. Also, now available with Advanced Communications, is ISV integration for compliance recording and contact center solutions. Advanced Communications will also give customers the ability to create custom virtual lobbies.
Microsoft is offering the 35% discount for Advanced Communications and free audio conferencing until Jan 31, 2021.
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