Microsoft’s Slack rival, ‘Teams’ now available for all Office 365 users

By : |March 15, 2017 0

Microsoft’s Slack competitor ‘Teams’ is now available in 181 countries and 19 languages worldwide, the company announced yesterday. Designed primarily for the workplace, the new chat-based software that was launched in a preview last November is available for free for all 85 million monthly active users of Office 365, Microsoft’s suite of cloud services and apps as a web app and native app for Windows, iOS and Android.

Teams is designed particularly for organisations structured with working groups operating in different physical locations and seeks to provide a single screen environment for teamwork. It features channels/groups, private messages, Skype video and audio calls, Office 365 integration (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files), OneDrive support, Power BI and Planner integrations, as well as emoji, Giphy images, memes, and so on.

The launch comes less than a week after Google unveiled its new Hangouts Chat communication app for teams with threaded conversations and dedicated virtual rooms. Amazon is moving into enterprise communication with its recently announced Chime service that includes video-conferencing and chat features. Facebook also jumped deeper into the market last fall with the launch of its Workplace By Facebook tool.

Microsoft also said that it was launching as many as 150 integrations with third-party services like Asana and Zendesk. The big difference between Teams and its competitors is the strong integration with Office 365. Teams become another menu choice in Office 365, available by default to Microsoft’s business customers.

The Redmond-based company is expecting that by offering users access to an experience that is free, available with their Office 365 subscription and laden with useful integrations, it will be able to lure users from rivals like Slack.

Since announcing the preview, more than 50,000 organizations have started using Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft has added over 100 new features to the platform including enhanced meeting experience with the ability to schedule voice and video meetings with specific participants; 1:1 calling on mobile, including video calling on Android; ability to email a channel; support for public teams, which anyone in the organization can discover and join; information Protection for channels, chats and files in Microsoft Teams, including: Archive, eDiscovery, Legal Hold, Compliance Content Search, Auditing, Reporting; mobile management with Microsoft Intune and new accessibility features including support for screen readers, high contrast, and keyboard-only navigation

Besides the usual features, Microsoft has built a chatbot framework that at present only helps you use Teams better, but over time will include integrations built by developers to bring in a variety of other services too, similar to Slack, Messenger and a number of other chat services.

But will all this be enough for Microsoft to catch up with Slack? While Slack has a clear lead at the moment, there are few things which can give Microsoft an edge. Firstly, Teams is free. That’s a huge draw for Microsoft over competitors like Workplace by Facebook or Slack, that offer paid and premium subscriptions after a free tier. The service is free for now, and while that may change in the future, it is certain to make Teams appealing.

Besides many enterprises already rely heavily on the Office 365 suite of applications. So people are already using a large number of the apps offered by Microsoft, including Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and so on. By adding Teams as a free add-on, Microsoft has gone out of its way to be welcoming to new users.

With “more than 150 integrations” available or coming soon, looks like Microsoft is leaving no chance to beat the rivals.

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