- Microsoft is adding new third-party apps to Teams meetings — which users can interact with while in a video call — as part of its efforts to turn Teams into a hub for collaborative work.
- Additionally, people can now also use Microsoft's low-code Power Platform to build and automate their own apps directly into Teams.
- This is key to Microsoft Teams' ongoing competition with Slack and Zoom, as both already have similar third-party app marketplaces.
- Teams is increasingly important for Microsoft, as signaled when it changed executive stock bonuses to prioritize growing usage of Teams.
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Microsoft is adding new integrations to its chat and collaboration tool Teams as it competes with Zoom and Slack to become the top destination for shared work.
Users will now be able to add new third-party apps to Teams meetings, which they can interact with while in a video call (previously, only the Teams chat function could integrate with outside applications).
As more people have been using Teams, Microsoft has found that people want to use the same apps they use in their channels in their meetings, said the product's general manager, Nicole Herskowitz.
"The need to be able to have an extensible platform that can be easily customized to meet the needs of the evolving business landscape has just become critical," Herskowitz told Business Insider.
Many of the apps — including Asana and Survey Monkey — already worked with Microsoft Teams chat tools. But there are new ones, too, including Halp, an IT ticketing tool originally built exclusively for Slack that Atlassian acquired earlier this year. Halp is now launching a version of its app for Microsoft Teams chat, with the firm's cofounder Fletcher Richman telling Business Insider that "we want to meet the customer where they're working," a nod to Teams' vast user base.
In addition to using third-party applications, people can now also use Microsoft's low-code platform Power Platform to build and automate their own apps directly into Teams.
This is all part of Microsoft's push to position Teams as a "hub for collaborative work," said analyst at CCS Insights, Angela Ashensen. "The integration of third-party apps and processes into Teams has been a key focus for Microsoft over the last 12 months as it works to make Teams more embedded in the way that people work."
It's also key for Microsoft to compete with rivals like Slack and Zoom, Ashenden said.
Microsoft Teams usage has grown significantly during the pandemic, and it recently hit a new user milestone, reporting 115 million daily active users in October, up from the 75 million it announced in late April and 44 million in mid-March. Power Platform usage has also grown, with over 10 million monthly active users, triple what it had in late 2019.
It's hard to compare Slack and Zoom's usage with Microsoft Teams. Slack hasn't given a user update since October 2019 when it said it had 12 million users. Zoom meanwhile has only shared that it has over 300 daily meeting participants in April.
Competition with Slack and Zoom
Microsoft has increasingly been competing with Slack in the chat and collaboration space, and Zoom in the meetings space.
Earlier this year, it signaled Team's growing importance within the company when it changed the way it awards stock bonuses to executives: Now, many executive stock bonuses will depend on whether the company can increase Teams' monthly active users, Business Insider's Ashley Stewart previously reported.
Third-party apps are key to that competition. Slack has long had a robust app store with third-party apps from companies like Asana, Atlassian, GSuite, and even Microsoft 365. It also has a tool to build custom processes and automation between those apps and Slack. It's an area that makes Slack "strongly differentiated from Teams," because it makes "Slack much more sticky for individual users than Teams, and much more embedded in the way they get work done," Ashenden said.
If Microsoft wants to effectively compete with Slack in this area, and have the "same level of credibility and confidence among developers and its partner ecosystem" it has to create an equivalent experience, she added.
Slack this summer filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission, alleging Microsoft harms competition by bundling Teams into its productivity suite, installing it by default, and making it hard to remove. Microsoft said in a statement customers chose Teams because they want video conferencing and "Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing."
Microsoft also now has a new challenge from Zoom, which recently launched new third-party app integrations. Similar to Microsoft Teams' approach, Zoom's strategy allows users to open apps like Dropbox, Slack, and Asana directly within a Zoom meeting.
The value added from both Zoom and Microsoft Teams with these types of apps is that it's a "wrap-around to meetings, with pre-meeting and post-meeting workflows as well as during the meeting itself," Ashenden said. "This is an interesting new area of competition, and the key will be for these integrations to truly add value without introducing too much complexity to the experience."
Microsoft's Herskowitz said that the company's focus on its low-code tools give it an important advantage.
"Our strategy is really to help our customers accomplish their goals. What they tell us is, 'Yes we want your marketplace of ready-made apps that are really high quality and very secure,'" Herskowitz said. "At the same time, what we hear — and this is very unique to our strategy with Teams — is our customers really want to be able to customize the app workflows, bots that are really specific to their industry."
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