A mix of old and new Microsoft, Teams could help lure Google users

Microsoft Teams blends the opportunism of the old Microsoft with the openness of the new, but it is not yet able to cut off Slack's viral distribution for a new way of working.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

Microsoft Teams' tricks should make Slack nervous

With a clear focus on AI at its developer event this month, much of Microsoft's efforts over the past year have strayed beyond its cash cows of Windows and Office.

But there as still been a significant addition to its storied productivity suite that has already made more of a splash than such recent add-ons as the odd multimedia site creator Sway -- Microsoft Teams.

Fitting for a product focused on collaboration, it brings together elements of the old and new Microsoft.

Like the old Microsoft, Teams is opportunistic, unafraid to barrel into a crowded space. A product based heavily on the paradigm established by Slack, it has taken on an emerging threat, on that -- unlike previous Microsoft targets such as Netscape and Novell -- had amassed neither market stability nor baited the company.

Microsoft has also not been afraid to compete with itself as Teams lands in the middle of a confusing array of collaboration options that include Skype (for Business), Yammer, and SharePoint. The latter, itself a reactionary to groupware pioneer Lotus Notes, hosts Teams conversations just as OneDrive hosts its files.

But Teams is also a product of the new Microsoft. It is available on a subscription basis as part of Office 365 professional. Teams has been cross-platform since birth, available on iOS, Android, macOS, and the web, and Microsoft has been moving quickly to keep the clients at parity.

Teams also shows Microsoft's willingness to work with competitors, something it has done throughout its career but has embraced more in the Nadella era. Microsoft has garnered a Teams plug-in from Trello, the popular Kaban board web app from dev tools developer Atlassian, which also makes Teams competitor HipChat. And if Teams itself isn't a shining example of AI, it is a welcoming home for bots from Microsoft and others.

While Teams may blend Microsoft's old and new, its challenge is to address the working worlds of old and new. In this, the company has turned a blind eye to the viral success of Slack, which is available in a free version that requires no ties to a subscription service as Teams does.

Like Wunderlist, which Microsoft acquired and is integrating into its Office suite as Microsoft To-Do, Teams has great promise for personal productivity, and that's a great way to build familiarity with the tool.

But Microsoft seems aware of this opportunity and characterizes the inability for anyone to gain access to Teams as more of a prioritization issue. Given its deep integration into other Microsoft products, Teams could well be a hook to lure people away not only from Slack but from the Google Office Suite services that are often used with it.

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