En Garde, Slack: Microsoft Teams Is Finally Here

By Juan Martinez Features PCmag

Microsoft Teams is now available for Office 365 users.

Continue Reading Below

The online collaboration app had been available to Office 365 Enterprise customers in preview mode since November 2016. Now, Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3, and E5 plan users can activate the app at no added price.

Teams is similar to the popular chat-based Slack application. Both tools enable businesses and general consumers to chat in groups or one-on-one and send files, either on a desktop or via a smartphone. However, Teams benefits from its connection to Microsoft's vast ecosystem of productivity tools.

With Teams, users can access Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Meetings, Notes, Planner, SharePoint, and OneNote, among other applications, without having to leave the collaboration app. They can collaborate remotely via the cloud within Teams to create, edit, or view any Microsoft application, a feature that isn't available in Slack on any document platform (Google, Zoho, etc.).

Additionally, Teams connects to more than 150 third-party business tools, such as Zendesk, Asana, and HootSuite, from directly within the Teams app. This means Teams users can answer customer service requests, delegate tasks to external consultants, and post to social media, all without ever leaving the Teams application.

Continue Reading Below

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Teams relies heavily on AI to expand upon the experiences you'd find in precedent tools like Slack and Atlassian HipChat. Teams integrates with PollyBot to allow you to take polls within a channel. So, if you're trying to decide where to have the company holiday party, you can list three restaurants and have your team vote on which one they'd prefer.

T-Bot allows you to query the Teams tool in order to access automated answers about the Teams application. Ask the tool how to create memes or GIFs, and the bot surfaces content to help you perform an action.

WhoBot sits on the Microsoft graph and pulls in Active Directory data to help you discover or learn more about people within your organization. If you ask WhoBot a question about a person, or if you ask about a specific subject, the bot will surface the person for whom you're looking, or subject matter experts in your organization who can help you find more information. WhoBot is not available at launch but will be rolled out within the system in the coming months, according to Microsoft.

The Teams Origin Story

Microsoft reportedly considered paying $8 billion to acquire Slack in early 2016. The acquisition was shot down by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, both of whom felt the money would be better invested turning Skype into something more along the lines of what Teams would ultimately become, according to reports.

As of late 2016, Slack had an estimated 4 million daily users, 1.25 million of whom pay for the software. Compared to the 85 million active Microsoft Office 365 users (at least some of whom will probably switch to Teams from Slack), Slack will have trouble keeping its customer base, never mind remaining the dominant player in the space.

When Teams was first announced, Slack published a full-page ad in The New York Times to declare that the company would remain competitive even after the Teams release due to its innovation, third-party integrations, and top-notch customer service.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.