For months now, we’ve been hearing about Microsoft Teams, Microsoft’s much-heralded Slack killer for corporate chat. It’s now in official release (what Microsoft calls “general availability”) as part of Microsoft’s Office 365 enterprise plans. Sadly, Teams is underwhelming in its formal debut and definitely not a match for the hype Microsoft has been providing since October 2016. For a product so late to market, Microsoft should have delivered much more.
We all know Yammer was a massive failure, and Teams is meant to bury that corpse and present us a replacement. In the meantime, Slack has gained a strong following because it is a great product that works well, is highly capable, and runs on any device you might use. It’s very easy to get addicted to Slack, and it’s set a high bar. (Atlassian’s HipChat is capable, but nowhere near as well designed as Slack. That may be why the new Hangouts Chat for G Suite users, expected in May or June, at first blush looks so Slack-like.)
Teams simply isn’t anywhere as good as it should be. It doesn’t hold a candle to Slack, in fact. I’m reminded of Windows Phone, which debuted a few years after the iPhone but seems like it was designed with BlackBerry as the competition. Teams feels like that in the face of the now-several-years-old Slack—it’s the Windows Phone of business chat.
Microsoft is the underdog here, and relying on its installed base is a dangerous strategy—as Microsoft should know from its Yammer, Windows 8, and Windows Phone debacles. Microsoft’s imprimatur no longer guarantees a product’s adoption. It needs to actually be good. Yes, there are IT shops that will give Microsoft years to get things right—they prefer it to relying on a small company like Slack or Atlassian—but that’s the same miscalculation Microsoft made with Windows Phone and Windows 8.
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