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(Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft revealed for the first time today how many people regularly use its collaboration app Teams, allowing for a clear comparison to where it stands against its chief rival Slack.

Microsoft Teams boasts 13 million daily active users, ahead of Slack’s most recent disclosure of 10 million users, though that came back in January. More than 19 million people use the tool on a weekly basis, the Redmond company said today, ahead of its Inspire partner conference next week.

Microsoft put together a graphic showing Teams’ rise over the last two years. The comparison shows Teams in the lead today, but when Slack last updated its usage numbers in January, it appeared to have the edge. Teams had somewhere in the neighborhood 8 million users at the time, according to the graph, which means that figure has grown roughly 62.5 percent this year alone.

(Microsoft Graphic)

Microsoft bundles Teams with some of its most popular offerings through Microsoft 365, and that has helped the product take off. Microsoft has a huge built-in user base for those products, making it easier to push adoption of Teams without having to land a bunch of new enterprise customers the way Slack must to grow its footprint.

And the trend goes both ways, with Teams spurring greater usage of other Microsoft products, said Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President Jared Spataro.

“Teams for us is helping people to get more value out of Microsoft 365,” Spataro said. “What we find is that customers who use Teams use more SharePoint, OneDrive, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, all the core components of Microsoft 365. That’s largely because Teams is the embodiment of M365 coming together and presenting itself in an integrated fashion.”

Microsoft unveiled a free version of Teams almost exactly one year ago to lure in potential users who weren’t already part of the Office ecosystem.

Microsoft also unveiled a number of new features for Teams focused on helping people communicate time-sensitive information, manage schedules and pass along messages across different parts of the organization. Here are some of the key new features coming out now, or in the near future:

  • Priority notifications lets users ping recipients every two minutes on a phone or desktop to get across the importance of the message, an important feature in places like hospitals and newsrooms, per Microsoft. A new read receipts feature displays an icon within the chat to show if a message has been read. Both features are expected to roll out this month.
  • For the so-called first-line workers — the more than 2 billion people by Microsoft’s estimates who aren’t planted at a desk in front of a computer all day in industries like retail, hospitality and manufacturing — a new feature that lets people clock in and out via Teams is rolling out now. Starting in August, managers will be able to deliver targeted messages to everyone across the team with the same job title.
  • Microsoft is rolling out a new announcements capability that lets people highlight important news in a channel, such as the beginning of a new project or a new person joining the team.
  • Teams will soon add the ability to post a single message to multiple channels at the same time.
  • Starting next month, Teams will support channel moderators who can manage what gets posted in a chat and whether posts accept replies.

Today’s announcements are the latest examples of Microsoft’s push to steadily add features to Teams that appeal to a wide variety of customers. Attract users beyond the office workers typically associated with enterprise software has been a key part of the growth strategy for Teams.

“We’re really going into people who have largely been left behind in digital transformation,” Spataro said. “These are people who every day face customers in really important interactions but have brought their own phones and that is about all the IT they have.”

And this effort has paid off. Though Slack hasn’t updated its usage numbers in awhile, it’s clear that Teams is on a roll. A survey of IT pros late last year found that Teams passed Slack in usage and trailed only Skype for Business, another Microsoft product. The company plans to replace Skype for Business as its primary meeting tool with Teams, which could speed up growth even further.

A recent survey of chief information officers by market research firm ETR found that Microsoft Teams’ adoption among big companies is surging, while Slack is flat and companies using the tool are spending less on it.

Even if Microsoft does pull ahead of Slack, the companies are competing in a huge market, with room for at least a couple major players. Slack estimates that the current market for workplace collaboration services is $28 billion.

With Slack’s recent debut on the public markets, and successful IPOs for other enterprise software companies, all eyes are on the market. Microsoft’s Spataro said the more attention the market gets, the better it is for everyone.

“The Slack IPO certainly has raised awareness that there’s this type of offering out there,” Spataro said. “We have really appreciated the fact that hardly anyone mentioned Slack without mentioning Teams as a strong competitor. So we definitely see interest for sure, and the interest is growing.”

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