It was rumored some time back that Microsoft was hard at work on its own Slack competitor which was initially expected to be called Skype Teams. Today, Microsoft has finally confirmed its service, though it goes by a more global name, Microsoft Teams. The new product is essentially a web-based chat service that, just like Slack, is aimed at businesses that have groups of people working on different projects at different times. Just like its rival, the new service features group chats, known as channels, as well as private messages and support for up to 150 bots at launch, such as Asana, Hootsuite, Intercom, and Zendesk.
Where things start to differentiate are with the integration of Microsoft's other services. Skype, for example, is one of the many integrated services and allows users to have video and audio calls with other users. In addition to this, the chat service is fully integrated with Office 365, allowing seamless sharing of Word, Excel or even PowerPoint files, which can also be uploaded to OneDrive from within the Microsoft Teams app. Also included is Twitter integration, allowing users to post a Tweet into any chat, alongside the ability to create polls. One last feature that gives Microsoft Teams a significant edge over Slack is its support for threaded conversations, allowing users to reply to a specific message and create a conversation underneath it, while the overall conversation can carry on as usual without needing to be interrupted.
Regarding how businesses can sign up to the newly announced service, it is currently available in preview form in 181 countries, and Microsoft has added in support for 18 languages currently, with the final version of the product being released sometime early next year. Right now, though, the service is only available to users of Office 365 Bussiness Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3, and E5, with no plans for a free or consumer-level version of the service. The release of Microsoft's workspace communication tool doesn't come as much of a surprise, with the software giant constantly increasing its business offerings. It's clear that Microsoft is serious about its latest service, though it's interesting how the company has avoided creating a direct competitor to Slack by removing the free version of the product. It'll remain to be seen which of the two services will end up being the more popular over time, but with Slack already having a significant lead, Microsoft will have some serious catching up to do once Teams sees its final release on various platforms.