Microsoft Introduces Chat-Based Workspace

Microsoft has introduced its own version of trendy business-messaging apps like Slack and HipChat. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace integrated into Office 365. A preview of the new feature is available in 181 countries and 18 languages to commercial customers with Office 365 Enterprise or Business plans, according to the company. It’s expected to be released to all customers sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

“We built Microsoft Teams because we see both tremendous opportunity and tremendous change in how people and teams get work done,” wrote Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president, in an Office blog post. “We aspire to create a more open, digital environment that makes work visible, integrated and accessible – across the team – so everyone can stay in the know.”

The software giant calls Teams a “modern conversation experience,” with threaded chats, integrated Skype for voice and video conferences and the ability to add emojis, stickers, GIFs and custom memes to personalize the digital workspace. All office applications – including Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Planner – are included in Teams, helping work groups easily collaborate. Microsoft is also allowing third-party developers to dabble in Teams and customize add-ons for the service. Also important, according to Microsoft, are the advanced security and compliance capabilities built into Teams, including encrypted data.

Companies given an early preview of Teams have responded positively to the app, according to Microsoft. “We believe it is the digital cockpit we’ve been waiting for,” says Andrew Wilson, chief information officer at Accenture, a global professional services company based in Chicago. Microsoft isn’t the only tech company hoping to compete with office-collaboration apps: Last month, Facebook launched Workplace, a service that works similarly to its standard social media platform, but operates separately.