Microsoft Corp.’s business communication platform Teams has grown rapidly over the last few years, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new change to the service will be poorly received by some customers.
Microsoft announced yesterday that it was retiring Teams Free (classic) on April 12 and recommended that users upgrade to a paid version of Teams to continue accessing their chats, files teams and meeting data. That in itself may be a somewhat controversial move but what came next is arguably bizarre – Microsoft is also launching a new version called Microsoft Teams (free) but users can’t transfer their existing data from Teams Free (classic) to Teams (free).
Noting that the naming nomenclature is somewhat bizarre in itself, Windows Central reports that the only way to move chat, files, teams and meetings created in Teams Free (classic) is to transition to either the Teams Essential plan, which costs $4 per user per month or a Microsoft 365 Business Basic Plan that costs $6 per user per month.
Companies that either don’t want to pay or can’t afford to pay to upgrade can sign up for the new Microsoft Teams (free), but there is no way to import their existing data from Team Free (classic) unless they manually save files and then save them in Teams (free).
The requirement to switch to a paid version of Teams to retain company data comes as many institutions are cutting costs and staff due to the broader macroeconomic situation. While no doubt some companies will switch to the paid version and Microsoft is likely counting on that, not all companies will have the luxury of being able to afford to do so.
The inability to transfer the data also raises questions about data ownership and siloed data.
“A walled garden holding your data to ransom – is anyone really surprised?” Matthew Hodgson, the co-founder of open source project Matrix and chief executive officer of secure communications provider Element, told SiliconANGLE. “This is the age-old issue with using proprietary centralized platforms like Teams; you’re beholden to the vendor. All your eggs are in one basket and now the basket has changed its terms and conditions.”
Hodgson suggests that Microsoft’s actions may be a classic case of bait and switch, saying that “in a rush to respond to the pandemic, companies were lured onto a free – bundled – product now rebadged as Teams Free (classic). It’s a classic indeed. The old, ‘make it free, lock ‘em in, then charge ‘em to keep their data’ classic that monopolies keep repeating.”
“There’s a difference between ‘don’t be evil’ and ‘can’t be evil,’” Hodgson added. “Microsoft during the pandemic was all ‘let’s bundle a free product out of the goodness of our hearts’ and is now taking its opportunity to charge locked-in users.”