Microsoft Unveils Slack Competitor Teams, Preview Available Today

Today at a software event in New York City, Microsoft unveiled to the world their official Slack competitor they call Teams. This platform is to provide (you guessed it) teams with a way to communicate and collaborate on documents, presentations, and more. It’s based inside Office 365 and requires a subscription on that platform to operate.

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday unveiled Microsoft Teams, a new chat-based workspace that further enhances the collaboration capabilities in Microsoft Office 365, the cloud-based productivity offering with more than 85 million monthly active commercial users. Microsoft Teams brings together people, conversations, content and the tools teams need to collaborate.

Four individual bases is what Microsoft Teams is built on to provide companies and enterprises with the best possible way to communicate and get work done. Here’s a rundown of each (via a press release).

  • Chat for today’s teams. Microsoft Teams provides persistent, threaded chat to keep everyone engaged and informed. Team conversations are visible to the entire team by default, and the experience also offers private chat capabilities. A library of emojis, GIFs, custom stickers and memes gives people a fun way to express personality within their digital workspace.
  • A hub for teamwork. Microsoft Teams brings together the full breadth and depth of Office 365. People can start voice and video meetings, as well as work with Microsoft Office documents, directly within the Microsoft Teams experience. The Microsoft Graph enables intelligence to help with information relevance, discovery and sharing. Microsoft Teams is also built on Office 365 Groups, the cross-application membership service that makes it easy for people to move naturally from one collaboration tool to another, preserve their sense of context and share with others.
  • Customizable for each team. Because every team is unique, Microsoft Teams offers the ability for teams to customize the experience to meet their specific needs. Team members can create channels to organize conversations by topic. They can customize channels with a feature called Tabs, which provide quick access to frequently used documents and applications. Tabs can be created for Office 365 services like OneNote, SharePoint and Planner, or third-party solutions, such as Zendesk and Asana coming soon. Microsoft Teams supports the same Connector model as Exchange to bring notifications and updates from third-party services, such as Twitter or GitHub available Wednesday, directly into the experience. In addition, it supports the Microsoft Bot Framework to bring intelligent first- and third-party services into the team environment. The preview of the Microsoft Teams Developer Preview, also announced today, gives developers the opportunity to start building integrations with Microsoft Teams right away.
  • Security that teams trust. As part of Office 365, Microsoft Teams offers the global scale and advanced security and compliance capabilities provided by the Microsoft Cloud. Data is encrypted at all times and covered by a transparent operational model with no standing access to customer data. Multifactor authentication provides enhanced identity protection to help ensure data stays safe within the team. In addition, Microsoft Teams will support key compliance and data protection standards, such as the data processing terms with European Union Model Clauses, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act business associate agreement (HIPAA BAA), ISO 27001, ISO 27018, and SSAE 16 SOC 1 and 2 report.

As you can see, Teams in many ways reflects the features of Slack while adding Microsoft’s spin on them. Main communication will be through various mobile and desktop apps like Slack, however close integration with all of Office 365 alongside other third-party services is also present. With such a saturated market in the world of team collaboration across the web, it’ll likely be an up-hill battle for MS as they attempt to make their presence known in the world. Of course, this probably won’t be a hard feet since many already have Office 365, but for those currently using Slack, it may be a struggle to make the switch.

The CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella had this to say about Teams and why it’s perfect for Office 365.

“At Microsoft we aim to empower every person and organization with the technology to be more productive as individuals and in groups,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Office 365 is the broadest toolkit and platform for creation, communication and collaboration. Microsoft Teams adds a new experience to Office 365 as the chat-based workspace designed to empower the art of teams.”

Meanwhile, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office at Microsoft, had the following to say.

“We’ve designed Office 365 to meet the unique needs of every group, with purpose-built applications — like Outlook, SharePoint and Yammer — that all naturally work together. And now with Microsoft Teams, Office 365 accommodates all workstyles,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office.

Since Teams is brand new, a preview is currently available before the full platform becomes available. Office 365 commercial customers with Office 365 Enterprise or Business plans can begin testing the new tool, while those of you without these subscriptions will have to wait until further details emerge. Currently, the preview is available in 181 countries and 18 languages, while Office 365 IT administrators can enable Microsoft Teams for their organization from the Office 365 admin center, however I don’t recommend doing so since this product is still in beta stages.