Microsoft Takes On Slack With Teams Collaboration Tool

Continuing its transformation into a less self-centric organization under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft yesterday launched a work-chat add-on to Office 365 called Teams that’s clearly a nod to the success of — and competitor to — Slack, the real-time collaboration software that reached four million daily active users last month, with more than 1.25 million paying for it.

In his lede for Business Insider, Matt Weinberger calls the formal unveiling at an event in New York “the worst-kept secret in tech,” while reporting that it is now available in a preview program and will officially launch in first quarter of 2017.

Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Office, spins on all the features in a blog post that includes an embedded YouTube video extolling such benefits as helping the NASCAR racing team Hendrick Motorsports “accelerate and win on Sundays.”



TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden tells us that “like Facebook’s Workplace, another Slack and Hipchat competitor that launched recently, Microsoft Teams is going live with a number of key customers already signed on, some of whom are featured in the video. They include Accenture with 400,000 employees and Hendrick.”

Speaking at the live-streamed 45-minute event, “Nadella said current technology offers to workers many advances, but added ‘what is still scarce is human attention and time.’ Microsoft Teams is intended to address that,” writes Jay Greene for the Wall Street Journal.

“As a stand-alone market, it’s not all that interesting, to be honest,” Koenigsbauer said. “There are so many ways people collaborate and it’s all blending together.”

“But,” as Greene points out, “Microsoft is eager to prevent rivals from seizing emerging markets that, while small today, could grow into threats to its franchise operations. The software giant, for example, was slow to respond to the Web-based productivity suite now known as Google at Work from Alphabet Inc.”

For Ars Technica, Peter Bright points out that “teams offers the same kind of Web-based IRC-like text chat experience that Slack users have come to know and love, with persistent storage of historic chats, integrations with third-party services, and of course emojis and memes.” 

With those attributes, “Slack has become the darling of Millennials, serving as a kind of digital water cooler for idle office chit-chat, as well as a workspace for teams to tackle projects,” Bright continues.

Slack welcomed its new competitor with a mostly earnest-sounding response in a full-page ad in the New York Times yesterday that also served as a blog post.

“We realized 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. It’s validating to see you’ve come around to the same way of thinking. And even though — being honest here — it’s a little scary, we know it will bring a better future forward faster,” the copy says. 

It goes on to offer some advice on working in the space it has created, elaborating on a few bullet points:

  • First, and most importantly, it’s not the features that matter.
  • Second, an open platform is essential. 
  • Third, you’ve got to do this with love.
  • One final point: Slack is here to stay.

There’s a touch of snark within, though. “We know that playing nice with others isn’t exactly your MO, but if you can’t offer people an open platform that brings everything together into one place and makes their lives dramatically simpler, it’s just not going to work.”

Indeed, “the real key is how Microsoft will extend Teams beyond just Microsoft services. Slack has done a great job of integrating a range of third-party services, and it looks like Microsoft has similar plans,” writes Tom Warren for The Verge. “You can create tabs that integrate with other cloud services, alongside tailored channels and even custom memes throughout chats. Microsoft is also making Teams extensible with open APIs and its own bot framework.”

In an interview with Mashable’s Pete Pachal, Koenigsbauer says: “Our point of view on this is we're building a deep, persistent conversation experience with all the integration of Office. We want to provide them all the things they need at their fingertips, not just the conversations, but easy access to the documents that they're working on, their project plan, their metrics — all integrated.”

As his last question, Pachal asks: “You must have seen today's New York Times ad from Slack. Do you have a response?”

“I don't. I really don't. No,” Koenigsbauer says.

Too bad he wasn’t on Teams with a PR pro who might have provided a snappier response real-time.

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