With millions of people working from home or quarantined amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, demand for video conferencing and chat software from the likes of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google, and Zoom (NASDAQ:ZM) is skyrocketing.
That demand is expected to increase even more as the number of cases in the U.S. rises. As of Wednesday, there were 938 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 29 deaths attributed to the virus, according to CDC data. As the number of school closures and quarantines increases, video conferencing will become ever more important.
Since the end of January, Microsoft's Teams collaboration platform has seen a 500% increase in usage in China. Usage is increasing in the U.S. as well, with more employees working from home. Meanwhile, Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg has said publicly that its usage is up significantly from its 100 billion minutes run rate at the end of January.
All that demand is prompting the tech companies to make it easier, and in some cases free, to use their software. Microsoft announced that Teams is now free to anyone with an email address.
Google said last week it's offering free access to its Hangouts Meet video conferencing service and all its G Suite and G Suite for Education collaboration platforms
Finally, Zoom has lifted the 40-minute limit on meetings for its users in China. The same courtesy is being extended to schools and universities in the U.S. upon request. Slack (NYSE:WORK) already offers a free tier, but the company is offering live Q&A and webinars to get the influx of new users up to speed.