Slack vs. Teams: Latest tech “arms race” centers on enterprise communications tools
Since the earliest days of Silicon Valley, competing tech companies have always been engaged in a virtual arms race for loyal users. Whether it’s PC versus Mac, or AWS versus Azure, there always seem to be at least two dueling behemoths involved whenever a new technology takes the scene.
As we’ve covered in recent posts, communication software seems to be among the latest hot tech pitting corporate giants against each other. The players in this duel are Microsoft, whose relatively new Teams app has been catching steam among users of the company’s Office365 suite, and Slack, which has exploded from a side project of Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield into one of the most recognized logos in the tech sector,
Earlier this month, Microsoft shared user statistics for Teams that indicated more than 13 million people use the app daily on average, besting unofficial estimates of 10 million daily users on Slack (at the time of the announcement, Slack hadn’t shared official usage figures since 2017).
A big reason that Teams is eating Slack’s lunch where daily users are concerned is the fact that Microsoft has included their collaboration tool in Office 365 and their larger Microsoft 365 bundle since the software’s inception. Just how Internet Explorer became the default search engine for a generation of Internet surfers before the birth of Chrome, when people are already using (and paying for) Microsoft products that work, why would they immediately explore other vendors’ solutions?
According to Butterfield, Slack’s current CEO, it’s this kind of bundling that he thinks is one of the platform’s weaknesses, not a strength, despite what Microsoft’s numbers might indicate. He compared Teams to Microsoft’s would-be Google competitor, Bing, as a cautionary tale.
“Tens of billions of dollars [went] into that [search engine] and I don’t know what their market share is now — 9 percent or something like that,” Butterfield explained at a Fortune Magazine panel following the Microsoft announcement. He went on to cite Google’s failed social media platform, Google+, which gained a huge share of market out the gate simply by being bundled with existing software, but never gained steam (and was eventually abandoned) because of inherent flaws in user experience, among other setbacks.
Butterfield may have a point, as shares of the company’s stock (which only recently went public back in June) rose 3 percent following the comments as well as a report from analysts at Barclays and Canaccord Genuity concluded that Slack was unequivocally the leader in the enterprise communication market.
As we highlight in our 2019 State of Enterprise IT report, communication tools are increasingly critical to ensuring that businesses with a large remote office network are able to operate. Supporting these tools requires active and passive monitoring so that IT can get ahead of issues before they trickle down to end users.