Demand for video calls continues to rise, say Microsoft and others


By Stephen Nellis and Joseph Menn

Apr 9 (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp said Thursday that video calls and the use of its Teams software in the education sector had increased in recent weeks, as employees work remotely and some U.S. schools canceled the welfare classes for the rest of the academic year.

Microsoft said video calls through Teams, which competes with apps like Slack Technologies Inc and Zoom Video Communications Inc, increased 1,000% in March, but did not provide absolute figures.

The company said the proportion of meetings and calls that included video more than doubled to 43% from 21% in March.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, said the company’s data showed that video usage was interspersed during the business day.

“We see video conferencing streaks on a computer, but then we see people go offline and do a lot of work in chat and documents. Then they go back online,” he said.

Microsoft also said that 183,000 educational organizations, which may include multiple schools, in 175 countries were using Teams for education issues, although it did not provide the previous base figure.

Overall, the minutes spent in meetings by all Teams users reached 2.7 billion on March 31, Microsoft said, tripling the 900 million minutes recorded on March 19.

Because billions of people around the world are under quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, remote education and work tools have grown rapidly.

For example, sales to businesses of the end-to-end encrypted messaging service Wickr, which offers video calls with up to 50 participants, have more than doubled each week for a month, Chief Executive Officer Joel Wallenstrom said.

Wickr typically provides services to executives or security teams of a large company that wants its encryption technology to discuss financial issues or government secrets, rather than competing with Teams, Zoom or Slack.

Slack said last month that the number of simultaneously connected users increased to 12.5 million on March 25 from 10 million on March 10. Participants in daily Zoom meetings grew to more than 200 million in March from a previous peak total of 10 million. The figures are not comparable with each other or with Microsoft.

(Report by Stephen Nellis and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)