Today we’re talking about Skype Teams. What’s that, you might ask? Read on and find out.
Skype Teams is a messaging app for group conversations, organized into channels. Like Persistent Chat, but standalone and with more features. The first mention I saw of it was a ZDNet post last month: Microsoft to beef up Skype’s team collaboration capabilities to take on Slack – ZDNet
Does this make it a Slack competitor? Is Microsoft going head-to-head with its upstart rival? It appears so!
As I commented in my last Slack-related post, competition is great. That goes for everyone involved. Including Slack.
So let’s take a look at what we know about Skype Teams (admittedly not much). As well as where it’ll need to compete hardest—and win—or risk stumbling into irrelevance right away.
Skype Teams’ Current State
Skype Teams is currently in development. Some testing has taken place. Closest I found for a projected release date was January 2017.
Skype Teams features referenced by other sources include:
- Channel-based Chats
- Direct Messaging
- File Sharing
- Groups/Group Scheduling
- Video Calls
- Threaded Conversations (join a topic by replying to an existing message, like Facebook comments)
- OneDrive Sync
- Apps for the Web, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone
Challenging Slack? What about Licensing?
The above list is extremely similar to Slack’s feature set. Licensing however, is another matter.
I didn’t see any mentions of a free option so far. Only that Skype Teams will integrate into Office 365 for existing users. Which does mean users can drop Slack and use Skype Teams, thereby saving on paying for Slack.
But Microsoft will have to make a powerful case for Skype Teams. Their competitor already dominates the chat space, and continues to improve. Microsoft will have to take a bold approach if it wants to beat Slack.
What Skype Teams Has to Do (if it wants to beat Slack)
Here are my humble recommendations to Microsoft. If they want Skype Teams to enjoy some success and compete against Slack, they should consider the following tactics.
Clamp Down on Privacy.
We mean it Microsoft…NO spying capability in Skype Teams. Private means Private. That includes from you!
This is one area where Microsoft could even overtake Slack. Slack does have private channels, but they aren’t as private as you might think.
(Microsoft overtaking a competitor on privacy? Hey, it could happen!)
Make Integrations Stupidly Easy.
Slack is famous for lots of third-party integrations. To even have a chance of competing here, Skype Teams must make adding third-party integrations not just easy…but stupidly easy. I’m talking extensive documentation, well-tested APIs, dedicated reps for working with app developers, etc.
Plus, Skype Teams must work seamlessly with Skype for Business Online AND Skype for Business Server. Unless you plan to build every Skype for Business tool into Skype Teams, the app will need to co-operate with whatever form of Skype for Business the user runs.
Lots of OneDrive File Storage.
Slack’s free plan gives each team member 5GB of storage. The Plus plan goes up to 20GB. Microsoft could easily give each Skype Teams member much more storage space – 1TB perhaps? 2TB?
Make it Available to ALL Office 365 Levels.
Right now, other sites are saying that Skype Teams will be part of Office 365 (of course), available to business plan users. Likely at E3. That is too high. Every Office 365 user, business or personal, should have access to Skype Teams.
How many Slack business accounts come from people trying out the app at home? Plenty, I’m sure. Personal affinity often encourages business adoption. No reason Microsoft shouldn’t try to cover this path.
Searchable Archives Forever.
Slack offers unlimited searchable archives with its Standard and Plus plans. The Free plan lets you search through the previous 10,000 messages – which is still a huge amount! Skype Teams should store messages indefinitely, and provide search capacity forever.
Then we can find the one message you’re SURE you sent. Even if Karen in Accounting says you didn’t!
Offer a Free Option.
Slack lets people use their software for free. You pay to gain more features, additional storage space, and support. Why not something similar for Skype Teams? Even a limited free option, open to anyone with a Microsoft Account, would go a LONG way toward encouraging adoption.
My Prediction: Skype Teams Won’t Beat Slack, But May Propel the Chat Space Forward
In any tech space, you don’t want companies getting complacent. Witness Yahoo’s recent hack, and the huge delay between the hack and their announcement of it. I don’t know the reasoning behind such a delay, but the complacency will unquestionably harm them in the long run.
I said last time that the Skype for Business platform “needs to continue innovating, keep adding to its feature set…or it could see upstarts like Slack take its place.” It appears Microsoft will do exactly that. To which I say, good! Let the competition continue.
Until we see more details about Skype Teams, I’m not comfortable making any firm prediction. But given the E3 level and some comments already made, I’d have to say this: Skype Teams will not beat Slack. But its introduction may kindle more interest in the chat space overall.
Slack has done extremely well in the past few years. I do hope they’ll continue their momentum. Maybe Skype Teams will help more people enter the chat space, weigh their app options, and spur both apps to greater heights.
What are your thoughts on Skype Teams? Please comment or email. Will you give the app a try? Another unneeded Microsoft add-on? Let’s hear it.