The worst-kept secret in tech is out of the bag: After months of leaks and speculation, Microsoft has officially launched Microsoft Teams, a new work-chat app for its Office 365 suite across PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
Microsoft Teams is a direct competitor with Slack, the $3.8 billion Silicon Valley darling that Bill Gates reportedly talked Microsoft out of buying for $8 billion. It’s available in a preview program today, officially launching to everybody in 2017.
Teams works much like Slack or its Aussie rival, Atlassian HipChat: Teams of employees create “channels,” or chat rooms, where they can collaborate on projects and assignments.
It also integrates with chatbots and other automated systems, including Microsoft’s Office suite, to post vital information (like website outages) in chat automatically. Microsoft Teams also supports voice and video chat by way of Microsoft’s own Skype.
Microsoft Teams also has some features beyond what Slack and HipChat offer. For instance, it includes a project planning tool so you can assign tasks and check statuses right within Teams.
Here’s a video of Microsoft Teams in action:
Unlike Slack or HipChat, which sell directly to companies based on how many users they have, Microsoft’s main method of selling Teams will be as a part of the Office 365 subscription suite. Office 365 already contains Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise-focused social networking tool.
That’s a big plus in getting Teams into rotation at larger enterprises that might already be Office 365 customers — and a potential minus for Slack, which has the acclaim of smaller companies but has struggled somewhat to make a serious dent in larger businesses that have more stringent requirements around security and regulatory compliance.
For its part, though, Slack doesn’t seem worried—the startup took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to welcome Microsoft to the market.