Microsoft cleverly shows why it's hard to beat Zoom

When your heart is in business, how can you claim you're also for, well, fun stuff?

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It's fun. Just like your work life isn't.

Screenshot by ZDNet

When you're fighting a verb, it's hard to get the last word.

For the last 18 months, people have been Zooming while Microsoft would prefer them to be Teamsing.

It's not that Teams has done badly, of course. When it's built into Microsoft products at work, many people feel obliged to use it. Some more reluctantly than others.

Yet people refer to Zoom calls just as so many still refer to tablets as iPads. That's annoying for a company with the size, heft and new-found love-needs of Microsoft.

When Redmond thrust Teams into the world, its initial sell was all about how it's used by serious, important people with a deep need for security.

Now, though, Microsoft wants Teams to appear just as fun-filled as Zoom, just as human and frivolous and lovable. So it's launched a new ad that, unfortunately, uses sadness as its cue.

I'm not sure whether the Olympics will fully happen or not, but many had been looking forward to visiting Tokyo and cheering on their favorite fencer, swimmer or entirely steroid-free weightlifter.

Covid canceled those plans. So Microsoft thought it would be an entertaining consolation to have some of these people leap on a Teams call and see Tokyo as experienced by locals.

It's all perfectly human and entertaining in its way. Who doesn't like cat cafés and square watermelons?

Yet the problem is that Teams comes across as a consolation in a time of disappointment, rather than some sort of positive addition to someone's life.

Watching what you might have experienced during one of the most memorable times of your life is like eating dinner for one when your date hasn't turned up. The food might be tasty, but the disappointment hovers like an obsequious waiter.

Moreover, if you're a product that was launched for business use, it can be difficult to persuade humans of your fun side. So many have experienced Teams through work that, in the absence of a truly differentiating product feature, any embrace will likely be slightly at arm's length.

Conversely Zoom, which managed to garner -- perhaps unjustifiably -- all the love, is now busily creeping further into the business end of things. Only this week, it purchased the cloud contact center Five9 in order to show off its hardened business approach to the world's moneymakers.

Microsoft can try to spend its way toward persuading you that, as this ad insists, "Where There's A Team, There's A Way." (And goodness, even that line feels corporate in tone.)

I fear, though, it'll have to do much, much more for Teams to be truly loved.