Changing teams: Microsoft’s workspace tool is breaking out

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Conscious uncoupling

Microsoft is breaking out its Teams collaboration tool from its broader Office suite on a global scale. The split comes just 6 months after it unbundled the product in the EU and Switzerland — presumably to avoid future antitrust fines for tying products together, which in the past decade have cost Microsoft more than €2.2 billion ($2.4bn).

The entire genre of software that Teams now dominates barely existed 15 years ago. Instant messaging systems and good ol' email were, and in some cases still are, the backbone of office life, until Slack — an internal tool built at a startup called Glitch — started gaining traction. An acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge", Slack (which was acquired by Salesforce in July 2021) re-imagined work communications, centering conversations around topics in channels. Voice and video call features were added in 2016 — just a few months before its fiercest rival, Teams, was launched.

Slack infamously took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, “welcoming” the competition from Teams with some “friendly advice”. That playful tone quickly turned serious when Teams was added to the Office 365 product in 2017 for free, a move that supercharged its distribution to hundreds of millions of users in a few short years — much to the chagrin of its rivals, with Slack filing a complaint against the tech giant to the European Commission in 2020.

If you’ve ever felt victimized by Slack or Teams notifications calling you back to your work laptop, you do at least now have alternatives, with countless collaboration tools to opt for, including offerings from Google, Zoom… and even Facebook.

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