When Microsoft rolled out Teams, its work collaboration software, in 2017, it took dead aim at Slack, the reigning king of work collaboration tools. The first Teams iteration was not particularly noteworthy, and Slack was clearly superior. One big drawback in those early days was that Teams, surprisingly, didn’t work well with Office.
Microsoft, relentless as ever, doggedly improved Teams with each new version and within a few years, it worked hand-in-glove with Office. And now Teams and Slack are locked in a war for the massive and growing market for enterprise collaborative tools.
The pandemic has made that market far more lucrative than it otherwise would have been. We’re now in a remote, work-at-home world that’s not going away. “More than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that it will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends,” a Harvard Business School report found. “These estimates suggest that at least 16% of American workers will switch from professional offices to working at home at least two days per week as a result of COVID-19. That would represent a dramatic and persistent shift in workplace norms around remote work.”
Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, said the same thing after the initial pandemic lockdowns in the US: “It’s clear to me there will be a new normal… The new normal is not going to be like what I thought two weeks ago: that all is clear, go back everybody. There will be a new normal that will require us to continue to use these new tools for a long time.”
So much is at stake that the war has gotten increasingly nasty. Last summer, Slack filed an anti-trust suit against Microsoft with the European Commission, claiming that Microsoft was using its Office suite dominance to illegally squeeze out Slack.