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Microsoft unveils ‘Teams’ chat tool for Office 365, challenging Slack

Microsoft unveiled a brand new “chat-based workspace” for Office 365 Wednesday, dubbed “Microsoft Teams,” confirming its plans to problem Slack and different current gamers like Workplace by Facebook in enterprise group communication.

“Identical to Outlook introduced collectively e mail, contacts, calendar, into this one one magical person expertise scaffolding that modified how we work, Microsoft Groups will convey collectively chat, assembly notes, Office, Planner, PowerBI, and a bunch of different ecosystem-developed extensions and functions to assist groups get work carried out,” mentioned Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, at an occasion unveiling the brand new tool this morning.

Microsoft Groups is a threaded chat tool that makes use of channels in a lot the identical means that Slack does. Executives are exhibiting the tool for the primary time this morning on the occasion in New York Metropolis, available via webcast.

The corporate says Microsoft Groups will likely be obtainable as a buyer preview in 180 totally different nations. Will probably be included in enterprise and small enterprise variations of the Office 365 subscription service. Common availability is scheduled for the primary quarter of the 2017 calendar yr.

Microsoft Groups appears like a cross between Slack and Fb, with collaborative instruments that enable individuals to work on paperwork collectively inside threads, and the flexibility to construct and add memes and emojis to customise the app to match the vibe of the group. Skype is deeply built-in into groups, permitting a fast transition from chat to voice and video conferences.

Microsoft Groups can also be works with third get together companies like Twitter and GitHub, permitting for notifications and updates inside the app. As a part of the occasion, Microsoft introduced a developer’s preview of Groups to permit firms to combine it into their very own expertise. Microsoft says Groups will likely be built-in with greater than 150 companions when it turns into usually obtainable subsequent yr.

Along with a desktop model, Microsoft Groups will likely be obtainable on iOS, Android and Home windows Cellphone units.

“You may actually consider Microsoft Groups as a digital transformation of an open workplace surroundings,” mentioned Microsoft Office exec Kirk Koenigsbauer on the occasion.

Following the announcement of Microsoft Groups, the corporate posted a 13-minute introduction video for utilizing and managing the brand new service.

Slack appears prepared for the problem from Microsoft. In a full-page “Dear Microsoft” open letter in the New York Times revealed this morning, previous to Microsoft’s occasion, Slack congratulated Microsoft on its announcement however cautions that “all that is tougher than it appears,” and proceeds to provide the 41-year-old expertise firm some “pleasant recommendation.”

“We realized a number of years in the past that the worth of switching to Slack was so apparent and the benefits so overwhelming that each enterprise can be utilizing Slack, or “one thing similar to it,” inside the decade,” in line with the letter. “It’s validating to see you’ve come round to the identical mind-set. And though — being trustworthy right here — it’s somewhat scary, we all know it would convey a greater future ahead sooner.”

Chat apps, like Slack, have change into important to many groups, as staff more and more telecommute or work flex hours. Offering office productiveness instruments is important to Microsoft’s enterprise, so it’s unsurprising that the Redmond, Wash.-based firm needs a bit of the motion.

Slack itself has grown at a spectacular charge within the final couple years. Final month, the company announced it has reached 4 million every day lively customers and 5.8 million weekly lively customers. Over the summer time, Slack mentioned it hit milestones of 1 million paid customers and $100 million in annual recurring income.

Slack launched publicly in February 2014, and within a year had secured greater than 500,000 every day lively customers. At its public launch, Slack had 16 staff. Right this moment it has 650 individuals understanding of seven workplaces across the globe. Slack has succeeded as a result of it goes past a chat app. The power to combine Slack with different packages like Dropbox and Google Apps, and its superior search engine, make it the sort of productiveness hub that the corporate seeks to be. In spite of everything, the corporate’s slogan is “Slack is the place work occurs.”

That may be a lot for Microsoft to stay as much as.

Microsoft has shifted the best way it presents its Office merchandise, shifting from conventional packaged software program to the Office 365 subscription service. The variety of Office 365 shopper subscribers topped 24 million within the company’s latest quarter, and the service boasts greater than 85 month-to-month lively industrial customers. Office 365 for companies has become the most popular enterprise cloud service within the 5 years since its launch, outpacing Google Apps for Enterprise.

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