Microsoft has finally introduced a free version of Teams as it continues to jostle with Slack in the collaborative software market.

Microsoft Teams, which is integrated into Office 365 for Business subscriptions, allows teams to chat, hold meetings and share notes across different devices.

“Beginning today, Teams is available in a free version worldwide in 40 languages,” said Microsoft corporate vice president Ron Markezich.

The free version gives up to 300 users unlimited chat messages, 10GB of team file storage, 2GB per person of personal storage and unlimited app integration.

Businesses can use the product without an Office 365 subscription.

Teams has been reasonably successful for Microsoft since it was first launched back in late 2016, with 200,000 businesses now using it, but the previous absence of a free version has provided a barrier for small and medium sized businesses.

Many of these smaller businesses have instead flocked to Slack, which now offers its ‘freemium’ product to 8 million active users across 500,000 organisations.

Slack’s free version limits users to 10,000 searchable messages, 10 app integrations, 5GB of file storage and no guest accounts – but this is enough for the 86% of organisations who stick with freemium.

It is no secret that Microsoft Teams and Slack are competing for the same market.

In 2016 it was reported that Microsoft was preparing a US$8 billion bid to buy for Slack, at a time when Slack was still valued at around US$3.8 billion. But according to a report in TechCruch, billionaire founder Bill Gates opposed the move, arguing the money could be better spent developing Skype’s business model.

Following this could-have-been merger, Microsoft began developing Teams and the rivalry has been bubbling away ever since.

In 2016, on the day Microsoft officially launched Teams, Slack published a full back page advert in the New York Times.

“Dear Microsoft, Wow. Big news!” it read. “We realised a few years ago that the value of switching to Slack was so obvious and the advantages so overwhelming that every business would be using Slack, or ‘something just like it,’ within the decade.

“We’re sure you’re going to come up with a couple of new ideas on your own too. And we’ll be right there, ready.”

The impact of Microsoft’s latest move is still unclear, but founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, Patrick Moorhead, said he anticipated Slack to take a hit.

“While Slack was moving from small groups to large groups, Microsoft started with Teams and large enterprises and moving their way down the stack,” he told IDG.

“[The free version of Teams] will negatively impact Slack in the future.”