March 19 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Thursday that Teams, its chat and conferencing app, reached 32 million users as of March 11 amid a surge in remote work by companies around the world in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The number was up sharply from November, when Microsoft said it had 20 million daily active users. Teams competes directly with collaboration app maker Slack Technologies Inc, which said in October that it had 12 million daily active users.
Slack did not update that figure during its earnings announcement on March 12, but said four of its five largest deals in the most recent quarter were won against Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft also rolled out several features designed to help with telemedicine and working from home, such as bookings application for Teams to help hospitals manage virtual appointments.
“As organizations around the world are changing the way they work in response to the situation, we’re going to learn a tremendous amount,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a virtual news conference.
Microsoft charges fees to businesses for its full versions of Teams, but there is a free version that can be used by consumers.
Microsoft said Thursday that doctors at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania, who had already been using the Teams app, will start tapping it for videoconferencing with patients, including those vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, to protect patients and the hospital. Slack earlier this week said it was making the service free for many organizations working to respond to or mitigate the coronavirus and was speeding up the set-up time for new customers.
Microsoft also said it was working on several new features using artificial intelligence that could make working from home easier for Teams users.
One feature can automatically replace the background during a video chat, for example cropping out a messy home bedroom and replacing it with a picture of a tidy commercial office. Another feature can filter out background sounds during a conference call, such as the crinkling of a plastic potato chip bag. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco Editing by Leslie Adler)
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