Microsoft launches Teams to take on Slack
NEW YORK—Microsoft hopes to outflank Slack, the workplace communications app that reportedly considered buying, with a new team-focused chat-based workspace built around Office 365.
CEO Satya Nadella announced Microsoft Teams, as the collaborative service is being called, at an event Wednesday in New York City.
It’ll look an awful lot like Slack. The resemblance was so pointed that San Francisco-based Slack took out a full page advertisement in The New York Times on Wednesday, offering some "friendly advice."
Teams is launching in preview mode in 181 countries and in 18 localized languages. The service, which will be made available to the small businesses and larger enterprises using Office 365, won’t be generally available until the first quarter of 2017. Microsoft says it has 85 million monthly active users for Office 365 on the commercial side of its business.
For its part, Slack says four million people are using its service daily, up from 3 million as recently as May. And more than 33,000 teams in companies large and small are using Slack.
Microsoft has apparently had Slack in its crosshairs before. It reportedly considered an $8 billion bid for Slack last winter, before pulling out in part because of opposition from co-founder Bill Gates.
Similar to Slack, under Microsoft Teams work teams will be able to organize themselves into channels, or private groups. One channel, say, could be for marketers who are collaborating on a product launch.
In group chats Teams will let employees employ emojis, stickers, GIFs and custom memes. And teammates can keep everything out in the open or as need be go private.
“Beyond delivering modern chat capabilities we also think about Microsoft Teams as really being quite deeply integrated into Office itself, as a hub for teamwork," says Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Office. That means giving collaborators easy access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Skype and other programs.
Microsoft also promises support for bots out of the gate.
“We don’t think that there’s a single tool to get work done. We think businesses need a universal toolkit," Koenigsbauer says.
Microsoft also announced a Teams preview program for developers and says more than more than 100 partners are already participating, including Zendesk, Asana, Hootsuite, and Intercom.
At the New York event, early preview customers Hendrick Motorsports, Accenture, Alaska Airlines, joined Microsoft on stage. In a blog post, Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson, said that “we believe it is the digital cockpit we’ve been waiting for.”
Koenigsbauer is certainly mindful of the competition that may come from Slack. “What we’re trying to do is something a little bit different. We don’t just want to introduce a new chat tool. We think this notion of bringing this together in a digital workspace that feels like a modern open office…with a conversation experience, is pretty unique.”
He says that Teams might incorporate as few as five or six coworkers or go on up to groups that number 150 or more.
Microsoft has various Office 365 offerings for businesses. A small business-oriented Office 365 suite costs $5 per user per month. One of the company’s more popular enterprise plans goes for $20 per user per month.
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