Microsoft is creating its first standalone model of Microsoft Groups for small companies. Microsoft Groups Necessities can be priced at $4 per consumer per 30 days and supply entry to the core assembly options of Groups with out the everyday Workplace app bundling that requires a costlier Microsoft 365 plan. This standalone model makes Groups much more of a Zoom competitor, as Microsoft is dropping its Slack-like channels performance in favor of a extra simplified chat interface and a concentrate on conferences and video calls.

“It’s the first standalone offering of Microsoft Teams designed specifically with small businesses in mind,” explains Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365. “It brings together features small businesses need to serve customers, including unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing and calendaring.”

Microsoft Groups Necessities fills the hole for smaller companies that has existed since Groups launched practically 5 years in the past. Till now, small companies have had to decide on the Microsoft 365 Enterprise Fundamental plan — priced at $5 per consumer per 30 days and rising to $6 in March — or rivals like Zoom, Slack, Google Workspace, and extra.

Microsoft Groups Necessities has all of the common Groups calling options.
Picture: Microsoft

The variations between Microsoft Groups Necessities and Microsoft 365 Enterprise Fundamental plans are primarily round Groups performance and cloud storage. Necessities solely provides 10GB of OneDrive storage, in comparison with the 1TB accessible on Enterprise Fundamental. Necessities additionally lacks assembly recording and transcripts performance, real-time translation, breakout rooms, and whiteboard integration.

Microsoft Groups Necessities additionally drops the groups and channels performance of Groups, so it’s extra focused at companies that depend on apps like Groups or Zoom for video calling and conferences. Non-public and group chat will nonetheless work in Microsoft Groups Necessities, although.

Microsoft is focusing on smaller companies which have relied on Zoom all through the pandemic right here. Zoom is a competitor that the software program maker recognized as an “emerging threat” final 12 months, and providing a standalone model of Groups seems like a giant step in competing with Zoom and even Google’s Workspace push.

“The pandemic and acceleration of using video calling and virtual tools changed overnight,” explains Nicole Herskowitz, common supervisor for Microsoft Groups, in an interview with The Verge. “We’re seeing at this point in time a lot of small businesses saying ‘What’s my future model?’ They’re almost doing a broader rethink, and many of them kind of raced to pick up tools very quickly to just stay afloat, and now they’re looking at their long-term strategy to engaging better with customers, with employees.”

Microsoft Groups Necessities will quickly embody Google Calendar integration.
Picture: Microsoft

Microsoft clearly sees a chance to select up small companies which might be attempting to stability quite a few instruments that don’t all the time work effectively collectively. In case you’re a part of a small enterprise proper now, you may use Zoom for video calls, Slack for group chat, after which Google Workspace for e mail and calendar. Google has been centralizing its chat and communications apps into Gmail all through the pandemic and opening Google Workspace up for everybody to make use of. Slack has app integrations that attempt to make these separate apps extra seamless to make use of.

No person has the right resolution, and Microsoft Groups Necessities lacks the app extensibility to essentially convey all these separate small enterprise options collectively. Microsoft is together with Google Calendar integration into Groups Necessities quickly, although, which is a crucial step in making Groups actually standalone.

In case you’re a small enterprise weighing the price of Zoom, Google Workspace, Slack, and different instruments, Microsoft Groups Necessities may look interesting at simply $4 per consumer per 30 days, particularly when a Zoom Professional license is $14.99 per 30 days.

Microsoft Groups Necessities is available today direct from Microsoft or by means of its common companions and resellers.

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