Microsoft had its second event in two weeks today. This one was quite underwhelming compared to the last one and lasted less than an hour. It basically discussed the new addition to Microsoft Office 365 called Microsoft Teams. This new feature is basically a social network for teams to interact on any project and has full integration with Microsoft as well as third-party apps. The event included a short speech by CEO, Satya Nadella and some in-depth explanations as well as discussions with executives from three major companies (Accentuate, Alaska Airlines and Hendrick Motorsports) about their experience with Office 365 and the new Teams feature. However, while the feature is surely useful, one can’t help but note the similarities of the UI to Facebook.
The threaded conversations, the integration of apps and the side bar to control aspects of the app as well as the tabs feature, which helps to switch between oft-used integrated and third-party apps, is all reminiscent of Facebook. In fact, if you look at the Facebook app for Windows desktop, you’ll see an eerie familiarity. Microsoft can’t be blamed for learning from the best, though.
The Teams feature is a “chat-based workspace” where you can have public and private conversations. Threads would be grouped by topics so you can join the conversations relevant to your work. There is built in support for GIFs, stickers, emojis and file support for all of Microsoft Office and Skype. In the tabs feature, you have a folder that holds all the embedded files in a thread so you don’t have to scroll through it. You can create your own channels and integrate cloud services through the feature as well.
As for security, Microsoft emphasized that it didn’t have access to your private data and encrypted all the data in the conversations. Mobile support is also built in via the companion app which is available on Windows Phone, iOS and Android. Bots are also included to help you. To navigate the UI of the Teams feature you can use “T Bot”, and to find people to help you out with specifics (e.g. you can type in “who is working on finance” and the bot will pull up their profile) you can use “Whobot”.
Satya Nadella emphasized the team instead of the individual in his address. He stressed that a great symphony or jazz ensemble had to work in unison to pull off a great show and that was the point of the Teams feature.
Teams is available as a Customer Preview right now in 181 countries in 18 languages. Microsoft Office 365 has 85 million monthly active users worldwide and that number is growing. Microsoft’s new focus on building itself up as a softare platform for businesses seems to be working incredibly well.