Microsoft Teams Isn't A Shot At Slack - For Now

Microsoft announced Teams this week, immediately bringing comparisons with current chat-based workspace tool Slack. The latter even took out a newspaper ad in the US to welcome Microsoft to the market.

There have been two canned responses to Microsoft's new product: the bug guy hasn't got a chance against the hip, lightweight and agile encumbent; or Slack is done for and Microsoft will eat its breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Neither of those are especially prophetic responses and both are true in different ways.

For starters Microsoft has set out a particularly specific stall for Teams: its an add-on product to Office 365. Which means that any organisation that currently has an Office 365 deployment got a chat-based workspace for free. Whether they need it or know how to make best use of it, it's available to try, learn and embed into organisation workflows and practices at no risk to the customer.

For Microsoft this is about making Office 365 a more attractive proposition to customers, rather than competing with Slack per se. The impact for Slack is still tangible though - customers getting the product (effectively) for free are going to need an awfully big reason to invest in an additional platform which offers little additional functionality.

In the long run it will be the allegiance of third-party developers that decides the future of Slack. If the accessible and significant Office 365 business and enterprise customer base looks to be a ready market for Teams add-ons and integrations I see a rapid shift away from Slack, resulting in a feature gap and a long, slow decline into irrelevance.

In this respect Microsoft is in a great place with Teams. It doesn't need to deliver a great product from day one, just one that is good enough. Following its current model of continuous and iterative updates it will end up being a great product over time. 

And being integrated with all of Microsoft's Office tools and capabilities is a pretty good place to be starting from anyway.


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