Microsoft's latest attack on Zoom has a big piece missing

Of course a more personal Teams was coming. But there's one important question Redmond doesn't really answer.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Is this enough?

Screenshot by ZDNet

It's hard when you're not a verb.

Verbs reverberate around the world with the speed of memes.

They become the de facto entities, leaving you to desperately protest your superiority to reluctant ears.

How can you persuade them to listen to your verbalisms?

This dilemma must have bathed around Microsoft for several months or more. Zoom has become the code word for videoconferencing. Even if people are using Teams, they'll still often refer to it as Zooming.

How, then, could Microsoft inject more personality into Teams in order to be an emotional challenger to Zoom? Indeed, how could it get people to use Teams with their beloved families, rather than for pungently serious business meetings?

This week, Microsoft released its version of Teams for the whole family (and even your friends), rather than for the fractious non-family of the corporation that employs you.

Naturally, I was moved to see how Redmond would make this something exciting. Would there be a celebrity endorsement from a truly happy family? Perhaps even a fictional one like the Weasleys or the Pritchett-Dunphys.

Not quite. Instead, Microsoft released an ad meant to inspire instant enthusiasm for its family offering.

I'm not sure it's entirely winning.

The opening shot invites you to "Chat Together," as if this was an entirely new concept for everyone who's been relying on screen communication for a year or more.

Next, Microsoft wants you to "Plan Together." And then, oh, make gestures at each other using smiley pool balls.

The aim of this is for us to "Get Together." One had imagined that was the case, yet there was something nagging at my cranial internalities. No, I'm not referring to the 70s porn music that, well, comes together with the ad.

Instead, it's this: Does this give families any powerful reason to switch from Zoom to Teams?

This question seems to hover over Zoom and Teams, just as it has over iPhone and Android for a long time.

Just as with phones, many have come to regard Zoom as the default, the very definition. They find it easy to use, intuitive, and, according to executives I speak to, simply better. While Teams represents work.

Personally, I don't mind either, though I don't spend as much time on these services as do many.

Weirdly -- and I ask your forgiveness in advance -- I sometimes use Microsoft's Skype to talk to friends. It's a legacy thing that became a verb, too. Before it became the home of so much spam and so many bugs that it should have been renamed Grype.

Perhaps, though, Microsoft could be like Apple, coming to a market somewhat late yet creating something to which users instantly gravitate with uncontrolled emotion.

Here, though, I don't really see it. Yes, for those who use Windows, Microsoft will try and make it simple to Teams up with their loved ones.

But will that be a positive choice or merely an act of convenience? 

One difficulty that my wife -- an alcohol researcher -- pointed out to me is that when she researches younger women, there'd be no point asking them to do a Teams call. They wouldn't know what it is. Ask them to jump on a Zoom call and they instantly respond.

Some might say Microsoft should have instantly made Teams a more personal attraction. That way, it might have even made people feel better about using it for business.

But the pandemic leaped up the world and, in some parts, Microsoft wasn't ready while Zoom was simply there. Simply.

Microsoft's essential communication problem with this new feature is summed up in its tagline: "Life's better when we get together."

Please tell us something new.

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