Sometimes when you bet big and win, the dominant feeling is one of relief, rather than joy.
Such is the mood that may be floating around the world’s many Microsoft offices this month as the tech behemoth begins to feel at ease with its decision to go all-in with its new workflow platform, Teams. Microsoft appeared to be trying to fix something that wasn’t broken by abandoning the successful Skype For Business brand and asking established clients to move over to Teams, but it’s now starting to see some favorable results.
The gamble, likely prompted by the success of Slack and its workplace collaboration app that links entire teams through instant messaging, video conferencing, and shared workflows, was without doubt at the front of many people’s minds during the company’s recent Ignite conference in Orlando. The event included various unrelated announcements, plus a few Teams updates, but the real message was clear–Teams is here to stay.
In fact, Microsoft used the event to declare Teams the fastest growing business app in company history. The big takeaway from the Microsoft Ignite 2018 Teams announcements? Companies are, on the whole, enthusiastic about the transition, and Microsoft is breathing a sigh of relief.
Microsoft Ignite 2018 Teams Takeaways: Teams Is Growing
The numbers Microsoft gave at the Ignite conference were encouraging, both for the company and for anyone confronted with having to switch to Teams. According to in-house counts:
- Teams is being used in some capacity by 329,000 organizations
- Teams has a foothold within 87 Fortune 100 companies
- 54 companies using Teams have 10,000 or more active users each
Those statistics are dwarfed by Skype’s numbers (1.3 billion registered users last year) or those of Skype For Business (hundreds of millions of active users) but they demonstrate confidence in the new product within the business world. And that confidence was backed up by our experiences at the Ignite conference, where attendees seemed to be embracing the switch and having great interactions with Teams.
While the Ignite attendees certainly don’t represent everyone making the switch, the future of Teams looks bright–and Teams is all about the future. Although Skype users currently outstrip Slack users by a factor of more than five to one, Slack’s innovative design has won enough business hearts to generate a growth rate that would have seen it overtake Microsoft’s flagship video conferencing platform by early 2020. Perhaps seeing this possibility on the horizon, Microsoft took the gamble of upsetting its enormous current customer base to keep pace with Slack. It has backed up that gamble with regular Teams updates–the latest pre-Ignite add-ons came less than six months earlier–and it has created a free version of the Teams app to compete with Slack’s free service and win over small- and medium-sized businesses.
And the developments keep coming.
Along with the “keep calm” messaging outlined above, Microsoft also used Ignite to introduce a few more Teams features that will enhance its video conferencing service.
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Microsoft Teams Gets Meeting Transcripts
Part of the advantage Microsoft abandoned with its switch to Teams is the name recognition of Skype. The word is synonymous with video conferencing and the free app was many people’s first foray into face-to-face calls (it certainly was ours). Despite that loss, the actual process of video calling remains a strength for Teams–we’ve compared it against Slack and video conferences are cleaner with Microsoft.
Microsoft is pressing home that advantage with the Ignite announcement that Teams video calls will now incorporate a built-in transcription service and the popular smartphone photo effect bokeh.
The automated transcription feature will provide live captioning of meetings in progress, and generate a time-coded transcript of every word that’s uttered. Other video platforms have beaten Microsoft to this particular punch, most recently BlueJeans and its AI Assistant Eva, but the time-saving nature of automated note-taking could soon become a must-have item within the professional video calling world.
The bokeh feature, meanwhile, is more about the look of a video meeting. The technology can detect faces within a video call and automatically blur out the background behind the speaker. It’s Microsoft’s way of helping callers look a little more professional when joining meetings from outside the office, and it’s designed to block out life’s unwanted distractions, as the Teams marketing staff demonstrate below:
Again, background blur is not new to video calling as many leading webcams ship with software or hardware tools able to achieve the effect, but it’s something Slack can’t currently match, and if it works properly, it’s another nice point of difference for Teams.
Microsoft also unveiled a number of smaller Teams-specific initiatives around security, healthcare applications, messaging, incorporating existing or legacy video conferencing systems into its new app, and greater empowerment of developers.
As we mentioned earlier, not all of the Ignite conference announcements were about Teams, but the message we received–and Microsoft will hope many others did as well–is that it’s confident enough in its new platform to start bragging about its success.
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