Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called Teams a "chat-based workspace designed to empower the art of teams." PHOTO: Bhupinder Nayyar

Microsoft today announced general availability of Microsoft Teams, its chat-based workspace in Office 365. 

The announcement comes four months after Microsoft unveiled a preview of the product, prompting competitor Slack to run a caustic full-page New York Times ad. Since then, Slack has launched its own enterprise edition and Google has boosted its own collaboration play with two new enterprise-focused services.

But Microsoft seems unfazed, even announcing a new partnership with SAP and Trello today that will enable collaboration without switching tools. 

"Microsoft is not going to lose customers to Slack," Alan Lepofsky, VP and principal analyst for Constellation Research, told CMSWire today. 

"Some Microsoft customers may choose to use Slack over Microsoft Teams, but that is not going to eliminate their need for an Office 365 license for email, Office, etc. Microsoft’s launch of Teams is certainly a threat to stand-alone group messaging vendors, but there will still be audiences that find O365 more than what they are looking for, and want that simpler stand-alone experience. It's a similar story for Google."

Microsoft Teams Livestream

Microsoft made its the announcement through a video live stream from company headquarters in Redmond, Wash. Perhaps the biggest news was the growing number of Teams users.

There are now 50,000 organizations using Teams, up from 30,000 in late January. Microsoft Teams is growing 30 percent a month, and messaging usage is doubling every two months, the company said.

Microsoft Teams is now available to Office 365 customers in 181 markets and 19 languages. 

Microsoft also announced new features spanning channels, email, security and email. The updates include:

  • Notifications from channel users follow will appear in the Activity feed
  • Each channel will have an associated email address that will enable users to forward email to a specific channel
  • Users can schedule private meetings with select participants and use scheduling assistants
  • Audio calling is available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone
  • Video calling is available on Android and coming soon to iOS and Windows Phone.
  • Users can add bots in a specific channel 
  • Microsoft added support for audit log search, ediscovery and legal hold for channels, chats and files as well as mobile management with Microsoft Intune 
  • Support for screen readers, high contrast and keyboard-only navigation

Microsoft officials also promised more than 150 integrations are either available or coming soon, including bots from Meekan, Growbot and ModuleQ. It's adding external guest access in June, giving people outside organizations access into a team as a fully-fledged member.

"The Office 365 applications and services that people use every day — including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI — are built into Microsoft Teams, giving people the information and tools they need," Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, blogged today

microsoft teams