Microsoft’s take on collaboration, group messaging and video continues to evolve. Here’s how Microsoft Teams fits into the booming collaboration software market and what you need to know to evaluate it against rivals like Slack, Zoom and others
Microsoft Teams is a collaborative workspace within Microsoft 365/Office 365 that acts as a central hub for workplace conversations, collaborative teamwork, video chats and document sharing, all designed to aid worker productivity in a unified suite of tools.
Launched in 2017 as a rival to collaboration pioneer Slack, Microsoft saw use of Teams rocket to 75 million daily active users as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, according to stats released by Microsoft in April. The company called Teams the fastest growing business app in its history.
Since launch — and spurred on by the push for work-from-home connectivity — Teams has moved further into the spotlight as a key part of Microsoft’s workplace productivity and collaboration strategy.
Teams has emerged as a star product rather than an add-on that is bundled within a larger productivity suite. Teams can serve as an alternative to — or even replace — email communications entirely, but it also acts more broadly to connect workers and their apps, particularly for remote workers. Think of it as a “digital translation of an open office space,” as a Microsoft spokesperson put it.
The collaborative workspace serves as the connective tissue that joins Microsoft 365 apps filling a “critical void” for Microsoft. “Microsoft saw early on that an integrated hub bringing together persistent chat, files and videoconferencing was going to be the future of enterprise collaboration, Teams is available as a desktop app, via web browser, and as a mobile app. It’s supported across all major operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
Microsoft has been aggressive in the unified communications and collaboration space through a series of strategic partnerships with vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Aspect, and with significant new solutions that tie in unified communications and collaborations features and functions with Microsoft’s widely used applications such as Outlook, Office and SharePoint. One of the linchpins of the Microsoft strategy is its Microsoft Lync Server 2010 release, which is the next generation of its Office Communications Server product line.
Lync Server 2010 is positioned as delivering complete presence, instant messaging, conferencing and enterprise voice capabilities through a single interface that is consistent across all PC, browser and mobile devices. From an IT administrator standpoint, there is a single management infrastructure as well as enhanced capabilities to increase availability and interoperability with existing systems.
Among the key features of Lync Server 2010 are:
Instant Messaging and Presence: Features include real-time presence information and enhanced instant messaging. Presence status can be set manually by a user or automatically. Contact cards are streamlined, and contacts can be unified across Lync Server 2010, Exchange Server and SharePoint. Server-to-server federation capabilities allow users to utilize presence and IM with other Office Communications Server/Lync Server users outside the corporate network. There is a public IM connectivity capability as well, providing instant access to users on popular IM platforms such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN.
Audio, Video and Web Conferencing: Microsoft Lync conferencing provides a rich user experience and unified interface. Features support HD video, one-click desktop sharing and the ability to start a conference on a mobile phone and continue it on a PC. Lync Server 2010 conferencing is designed to work with existing network, enterprise messaging and telephony infrastructure.
Enterprise Voice: Lync Server 2010 combines the telephony features of an IP PBX with presence, instant messaging and conferencing. It has the traditional voice and calling features and is designed to enhance or even replace an existing IP PBX system.
Integration: One of the key features of Lync Server 2010 is that it is tightly coupled with other popular Microsoft platforms and applications, including Exchange, SharePoint, Office, Microsoft System Center and Active Directory. By linking closely with Exchange Server, for example, users can take advantage of a unified contact list, a shared calendar and integrated presence data across the enterprise