Posey's Tips & Tricks

What's Behind Microsoft's Sudden Teams Push?

As Skype for Business slowly gets phased out and Slack's enterprise dominance becomes less of a sure thing, the time is right for Microsoft to focus its marketing energies on its upstart collaboration tool.

Although most of my spaceflight training takes place domestically, there is some international travel involved. Last October, for example, I traveled to Canada for a parabolic (zero-gravity) flight campaign. The problem with traveling internationally is that I only have cell service in the United States. This has always meant that I have had to use a voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution to stay in touch with my family back home.

As I was preparing for last year's parabolic flight campaign, Microsoft made Teams available through my Office 365 subscription. I decided to give Teams a try and installed it onto my laptop and onto my wife's computer. In retrospect, Teams worked out really well; it did exactly what I needed it to do.

The one thing that surprised me was that after installing Teams, there was no Start menu option that could be used to open it. Now, I have to confess that I was feeling completely exhausted at the time and it is possible that I just missed something, but I couldn't find an icon anywhere. I ended up creating my own shortcut for launching Teams.

More recently, however, the marketing department at Microsoft seems to be engaged in an all-out push to try to get people to use Teams. I noticed that after installing some updates recently, a desktop icon suddenly appeared on one of my computers in an apparent attempt to entice me into installing Teams. I also noticed that Teams would load automatically upon logging into my primary desktop computer. Teams was already installed on that machine, but was not configured to automatically open.

In my opinion, it seems as though Microsoft is actively working to promote the use of Teams. It is as though it wants Teams to suddenly become front-of-mind. The question is, why?

Let me just say upfront that I don't have any kind of inside information from Microsoft; all I can do is speculate. Having said that, I think that the most obvious reason why Microsoft has suddenly begun pushing Teams so hard is because the company wants to get people used to using it.

Microsoft has announced that it is going to retire Skype for Business Online on July 31, 2021. Being that we are only about halfway through 2019, the 2021 cutoff date seems really far away. Even so, it is important to remember that large companies tend to move slowly. Even in smaller companies, there is sometimes a natural tendency to put things off until a more convenient time.

So imagine that the employees of a particular company regularly use Skype for Business Online, and that one day in 2021, they all arrive at work and discover that Skype for Business Online no longer exists. The sudden loss of a critical app could be paralyzing.

Rather than risk an abrupt cutover from Skype for Business Online to Teams, Microsoft is giving us a nice, long transition period. This transition period gives Office 365 users a chance to get used to the Teams interface and to get in the habit of using the service. The idea is to wean people off of Skype for Business Online long before the 2021 deadline.

But as nice as it is to have a transition period before Microsoft gets rid of Skype for Business Online, I don't think that fully accounts for the way that Microsoft has been pushing Teams lately. Again, it's just my opinion, but I think that there are two other things going on.

First, I think that Teams has finally matured. When Teams first debuted a couple of years ago, it wasn't the same product that it is today. Microsoft has done a lot of work to refine Teams and make it more stable and usable. I am guessing that Teams has finally reached the point at which it is just as good as -- if not better than -- Skype for Business, and that now Microsoft can actually entice its customers to switch from Skype for Business to Teams.

The other thing that I think is going on is that Microsoft has more or less declared war on Slack. I think that Microsoft's big Teams marketing push may have something to do with trying to take market share away from Slack. This idea is based around the fact that a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that Teams had overtaken Slack with 13 million daily users.

Of course, I also can't help but wonder if Microsoft has something big planned for Teams down the road. Skype for Business was a great product and it had good name recognition. It doesn't make sense for Microsoft to abandon it unless it is working on something far superior. My guess is that by 2021, we will see deep integration between all of the Office products and Teams.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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