After months of previewing, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) made it official, rolling out its Teams enterprise chat app designed to take on the likes of Slack, Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOG) Google Hangouts and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) in the burgeoning and growing crowded marketplace.
As of Tuesday, Teams, which Microsoft had been previewing since November, is available in 181 markets as part of Office 365, its cloud-based productivity suite. Microsoft says 50,000 Office 365 customers are already using Teams, including Alaska Air, Expedia and Cerna Corp., to name a few. Expedia, for example, is using Teams for its 300-person IT group to chat, collaborate and have conference calls. “In a world where information is abundant and human time and attention remain scarce, we aspire to help people and groups of people be more productive, wherever they are,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement announcing the official launch of Teams. “Office 365 is the broadest platform and universal toolkit for creation, collaboration and communication. Today we are adding a new tool to Office 365 with Microsoft Teams, a chat-based workspace designed to empower the art of teams.”
Taking on Slack
Teams, which is only available to paid Office 365 customers, is aimed at competing against Slack and is trying to stand out by adding more than 100 new features since November. Some of those include scheduling capabilities; mobile audio calling with video calling on Android; email integration, and new security and compliance capabilities. Video calling from iOS and Windows phones is coming soon, as is the ability to integrate Teams into Microsoft Outlook email.
For Microsoft, the leader in corporate email, Teams is an important launch since the corporate world is increasing moving toward chat apps to communicate. In addition to responding to the changing face of corporate communications Teams is also seen by Microsoft as a way to get more customers to move to Office 365, which gives it a more recurring revenue stream since Office 365 is a subscription-based service.
Microsoft is joining a crowded marketplace that pits startups against the tech old guard in corporate chat apps. While Slack is widely popular, it’s not the only formidable player. Earlier this month, Google split the popular Hangouts feature from Gmail into two separate apps targeted at enterprise users. Both apps are expected to provide serious competition to Slack. In addition, the move represents a doubling down by Google in the enterprise productivity space, an area that has become increasingly crowded with companies as disparate as ecommerce behemoth Amazon. Google's announcement comes right after rival Amazon announced that it had acquired Do.com, a startup that has automated several tasks relating to online meeting prep and notes. (See also: Google Revamps Hangouts to Take On Slack.)