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Microsoft goes after Slack with new Teams service

Blair Hanley Frank | Nov. 3, 2016
Live chat service makes it possible for people to work together

In keeping with other modern work chat apps, Microsoft Teams supports the use of bots inside chats and direct messages. To kick things off, Microsoft added two different bots aimed at improving the experience of using its chat product.

T-Bot is a tool for helping people better understand what Teams can do, giving users an interactive, automated help system. In addition to chatting with T-Bot, users can also browse the bot's knowledge base and access it from a series of menus.

WhoBot is a tool for helping users find other people inside a team. It sits inside a team and watches what people are talking about. That means users can ask "who knows about ticket sales" and the bot will return a list of people who have discussed ticket sales inside Teams.

Microsoft's enterprise chops and massive existing Office 365 user base is going to be one of its biggest assets when it comes to going head-to-head with the likes of Slack. IDC Vice President Vanessa Thompson said that one of the key benefits of Microsoft's new service is its compliance with standards like HIPAA and the EU Model Clauses.

"[Microsoft is] going to have some early success," she said. "Slack's been growing pretty aggressively, but they're nowhere near what Microsoft did from an Office perspective."

Moor Insights and Strategy Principal Analyst Patrick Moorhead said in an email that he's "very positive on Microsoft Teams." 

"If Microsoft can keep up with Slack's connectors and maintain their Office 365 pricing model, Slack could likely be at risk of decreased growth as they no longer have a giant utility lead," Moorhead said in an email.

On its part, Slack responded to Microsoft using a full-page ad in the New York Times, saying that they welcome the new competition. "Wow. Big news! Congratulations on today’s announcements. We’re genuinely excited to have some competition," the ad said, addressing Microsoft directly. "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."

Microsoft Teams will be free to Office 365 Enterprise customers. The beta, available Wednesday, will support 70 external connectors and 85 bots. It's available for users in 181 countries, with an interface localized to 18 languages. It's expected to be generally available during the first quarter of next year.


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