Microsoft furthers its chat assault on Slack and Google by bringing General Motors on as a customer
- Microsoft Teams, the company's workplace chat app, now has 200,000 organizations using it - including General Motors and Technicolor, both announced as customers on Monday.
- Microsoft Teams is also adding some new features, like a searchable transcript of every single conference call, or a one-touch button to blur the background on a video call.
- Microsoft says it has an edge over competitors like Slack or Google because Teams comes standard as part of the Office 365 suite, giving it a huge pricing advantage over others.
One year ago, Microsoft officially launched Teams: a workplace chat app that brought the tech titan into contention with $5.1 billion startup Slack, Cisco, and more recently, Google.
To celebrate the milestone, Microsoft is announcing some new customers - including General Motors, which has deployed Microsoft Teams to its employees. Technicolor, too, has gone all-in on Teams. All told, Microsoft says that there are 200,000 organizations (meaning businesses, schools, and other entities) using Teams.
And while Microsoft originally built Teams for text-based chatting, the company has been aggressively adding voice and video conferencing functionality, too. In fact, Microsoft has previously said that Teams will entirely replace its existing Skype for Business voice-and-video tool, sooner rather than later.
"We kind of look at [text chatting and video conferencing] as peanut butter and jelly," says Lori Wright, general manager for marketing with Microsoft Teams. The two work in harmony, with Microsoft working to combine the two into one.
To that end, Microsoft is actually beefing up Teams with lots of nifty new conferencing capabilities that "go beyond what Skype for Business was able to do," Wright says.
Some of those new features:
- A new cloud recording tool for conferences - Microsoft Teams will automatically record everything you say on a conference, and transcribe it for you. Then, you can search the transcript for certain terms, like "Microsoft," and jump to the appropriate portion of the call.
- Automatic background blurring - As we saw with the viral BBC dad of 2017, you don't always want people to see what's in the background when you're on a video call. Microsoft Teams can now use nifty artificial intelligence to automatically blur the background on a video call, while keeping you in focus.
- Message translation - Microsoft Teams can now translate messages in other languages right from within the chat window.
- New devices - Lenovo and HP will make video conferencing meeting-room systems powered by Microsoft Teams; Plantronics will make desk phones that can tap into Microsoft Teams to make voice calls.
Wright says that, in a very real way, it's the combination of voice, video, and chat that makes Microsoft Teams so attractive to customers. If nothing else, rolling all of those into one service gives it a lot of "pricing power," since customers don't have to buy one app for each purpose.
Couple that with the fact that Microsoft Teams comes as a standard part of the Office 365 productivity suite for business - which has over 120 million users - and Wright says that competitors like Slack or even Google can't compare in terms of value. And all of those apps integrate with Teams, making it easy to share and collaborate on documents.
"That's just another huge competitive advantage that people can't match," says Wright.
She further says that Microsoft Teams is seeing strong adoption from both existing Office 365 customers, and from those who hadn't previously been using the suite. In the latter case, she says, it's that value that's drawing them in: They might have started by looking for a chat tool, but choose Microsoft because then they get Word and PowerPoint, too.
In a larger sense, Wright says that they're finding that Teams isn't replacing email, so much as "right-sizing" it. Customers are finding the right places where email makes sense, and the spots where a chat is just faster and easier. She says that it's reflective of Microsoft trying to match modern needs.
"It's representative of the way the future world is working," says Wright.
Those competitors aren't sitting still, though: Just recently, Facebook signed a big contract to bring over Farmers Insurance and all of its 20,000 employees to Workplace, its business collaboration tool.
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