Microsoft is going all in on its chat and productivity tool, Teams.
As its annual customer event Ignite kicks off in Orlando, Microsoft announced this morning that Teams will eventually replace Skype for Business as the company’s primary tool for all calls, video conferences and meetings for customers using Office 365 in the cloud. Microsoft didn’t give a timeline for this move.
“For our cloud connected customers, As the core communications client, we will make Microsoft Teams the hero and primary experience for all voice, video and meetings. Over time, Microsoft Teams will replace the current Skype for Business client,” said Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Office 365 marketing.
For customers who aren’t planning to move their advanced calling and meetings functions to the cloud, Microsoft is working on a new version of Skype for Business Server, scheduled for the second half of next year. Microsoft also said it is planning extensive updates on Skype’s infrastructure to allow for enterprise-grade calls and video meetings.
Microsoft added more than 100 new features to Teams between the announcement of the preview version last November and its official launch in March, with more coming all the time. The latest center around a concept Markezich called “intelligent communications.” Microsoft will use machine learning and concepts like translation and speech recognition to automate parts of meetings to make it easier to prepare and follow up.
Earlier this month, Microsoft said Teams is now being used by 125,000 organizations, up from 50,000 at its March launch.
Microsoft Teams is included at no extra charge in business editions of Office 365 subscription service and is available in 181 markets around the world. As part of the larger Office package — which boasts more than 100 million monthly active users — the growth potential is there for Teams. The company doesn’t expect the tool to immediately take over the competitive enterprise collaboration market, which includes some of the world’s most powerful tech giants, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, as well as upstart Slack, but Microsoft wants to set Office apart as the go-to program for enterprises.
A survey of IT pros earlier this year conducted by Austin-based IT network Spiceworks found that use of Teams is expected to take off in coming years, while adoption of competing tools Google Hangouts and Slack should only expected to rise slightly in that same period. Should those trends bear out, the study predicts that Teams will be the second most popular chat app in the workplace by the end of 2018, trailing only another Microsoft program, Skype for Business.
GeekWire got a demonstration of Teams earlier this year and learned about how it borrows familiar elements from other popular apps and services to reduce the product’s learning curve. The goal is to become the digital equivalent of the open office space by combining pretty much everything there is to do at work — chatting, having meetings, collaborating on documents, sending cute animal GIFs — all into one place.