At the November 2 Office event in New York, Microsoft has finally taken the wraps off its much-awaited competitor to enterprise chat app Slack. Christened ‘Microsoft Teams,’ — as we already knew — the service has been launched as an extension to the already existing Office 365 subscription.
Taking center stage at the launch event, Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft says,
At Microsoft we aim to empower every person and organization with the technology to be more productive as individuals and in groups. Office 365 is the broadest toolkit and platform for creation, communication and collaboration. Microsoft Teams adds a new experience to Office 365 as the chat-based workspace designed to empower the art of teams
Microsoft Teams can be defined as a new chat-based application in Office 365 that enables professionals to virtually gather within private conversations to collaborate and discuss project details or even what to order for lunch. It has been launched a little-too-late but with the aim to bring together people, conversations, content and the tools teams needed to collaborate.
Though, Microsoft Teams might look quite(or exactly) like its rival Slack and pack in similar functions, the company stresses that it is more visible, integrated and accessible by any team. Very much like Slack, Microsoft Teams also provides a persistent, threaded chat window that can be open or private — for 1:1 conversations. The team has also added some fun, quirky perks like emojis, GIFs, custom stickers and memes to spice up conversations.
Don’t mind me comparing Microsoft Teams to Slack at each and every step because they’re almost alike. In addition to the identical chat interface, a familiar sidebar offers access to groups, files, meetings, chats and notifications. The new platform has been deeply integrated with Office and Skype — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Skype for Business is baked right into the app. Due to the same, teams can seamlessly start voice and video calls as well as collaborate on any Office document natively.
Slack also offers a ton of crazy third-party app integrations that allow you to execute easy collaboration right within the chat window using ‘/commands’ and that’s the one thing that’s lacking from Microsoft Teams. It simply focuses on mashing together the Office enterprise tools with a chat application for workplace users.
Though, the Redmond giant did show-off some integrations with Twitter at its event, there is still a lack of more third-party integrations. The company has promised to roll out more services from Zendesk and Asana soon. This could be a real challenge for Microsoft, and Slack has already questioned the integrity of the same in its full-page newspaper ad welcoming and rebuking the Redmond giant for shamelessly copying its platform and features.
The service is available to enterprise teams, students and other Office 365 commercial owners in preview in over 180 countries and 18 languages. Microsoft plans for a global roll out in the first quarter of 2017.
This move from Microsoft is not only focused at taking on competitors. It also reiterates that Redmond is no longer focused on defining Windows as the center of all its product strategies. The company is now completely focusing on cloud, Azure, artificial intelligence, mixed reality and of-course enterprise productivity tools. This mindset and chosen direction for the company has been brought in under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.