For the last three years, Slack has dominated the enterprise instant messaging market. In April, investors rewarded the San Francisco-based startup for its success, offering $200 million in additional funds and pushing its valuation up to $3.8 billion, according to TechCrunch. With more than 2.7 million users and freshly replenished coffers, the platform looked poised to continue its reign. Then, last month, Microsoft showed up.
On Nov. 2, the technology giant announced the release of Microsoft Teams, a collaborative enterprise application specifically designed to knock Slack from its perch atop the IM throne, The New York Times reported. However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put a more positive spin on the product when discussing it during a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
“Look, my job No. 1 is to make sure that the 85 million users I have on Office 365, we go meet their needs and keep growing that base,” he told those assembled. “This is not to take away any success anyone else has. We’ve always had lots of tools out here that have competed and also coexisted.”
Shooting for the top
Still, most analysts see Teams as a surgical strike against Slack. Indeed, the application does have similar features. Like its Bay Area rival, Teams is based on threaded chats, allowing users to group conversations and participate in collaborative, project-based interactions. It also integrates with chatbots, an area in which Slack has invested considerable time and resources. To top it off, Teams comes equipped with messaging features that appeal directly to the startup’s primary user base: millennials. Users can not only send text-based communications but also shoot across emojis, GIFs and stickers.
Teams also integrates with staple Microsoft applications such as Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word and Skype for Business.
When it comes to delivery, the similarities between Teams and Slack end. Unlike its rival, Microsoft has decided not to market Teams as a standalone product. Instead, organizations that wish to take advantage of the collaborative tool must subscribe to Office 365. While this approach carries some risk, many experts believe Teams will benefit, as tens of millions of built-in prospective users can gain access immediately. Despite this advantage, Microsoft may still face an uphill climb as it goes head-to-head against a more mature messaging solution.
“Are people going to to be as delighted to use this Microsoft product as they are using Slack?” James Allworth, a business consultant and host of the podcast “Exponent,” asked The Times. “You want to use the best tool possible, not the one that’s included with your subscription product.”
That said, Microsoft has a pretty strong product development track record. Just ask the more than 400 million users currently running Windows 10.