Microsoft Teams Expanding Its Role with Windows 11

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3Q 2021 | IN-6205

Microsoft announced that Windows 11 will have Microsoft Teams built in (as part of the task bar) when it begins rolling out in late 2021.

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Microsoft Teams Built into Windows 11


Microsoft announced that Windows 11 will have Microsoft Teams built in (as part of the task bar) when it begins rolling out in late 2021. The tighter integration and seamless launching of communications and collaborations positions Microsoft Teams (and Microsoft’s suite/productivity solutions) to better compete against companies like Slack and Zoom on the enterprise side; its push to more broadly expand its exposure to users puts it in a position to gain ground in the consumer space as well to better match alternatives like Apple’s FaceTime. While Skype for Business is ending by July 31, 2021, the consumer version will have an extended period of support, but it will likely see a similar migration to Teams once Windows 11 has hit its critical mass of installations.

Starting in July 2020, Microsoft Teams began broadening the collaborative platform’s appeal to third-party app developers, allowing them to create apps that integrated into Teams to display content, post notifications, and so on and to become part of the workflow (without having to use screen share). More recently, in May 2021 at Microsoft Build, the company announced that it has opened its application programming interfaces, the Teams store at AppSource, and tools to allow apps to be built for Teams using standard web technologies, making development across platforms easier. These extensions and support also extend to Teams “shared stage integration,” bringing third-party collaborative tools such as whiteboards or design toolsets into the main Teams’ meeting screen (or the “main stage”). Microsoft also updated its “fluid components” that allow multiple users to work on content simultaneously, breaking down barriers between productivity and collaborative tools within Teams. This includes assigning tasks to other team members within documents or starting a meeting with colleagues within the productivity app, a similar feature to Google’s smart canvas, which is part of Google Workspace.

Value of Seamless Collaboration and Workflows


Even as companies reopen offices and as workforces are returning resources back to offices, the pandemic has left an indelible impression on the Communications and Collaboration (C&C) market. Like many other markets, the C&C market saw accelerated trends that quickly brought tools and ideas to the market not only to better serve a hybrid workforce but also to more broadly engender enhancements and efficiencies to everyday workflows. A key development here is the support for third-party applications and efforts to make work processes and communications more seamless. Companies making technological transformations are entering this transition at various stages and levels of expertise and experience. For some companies that have little preexisting investments in the area, an End-to-End (E2E) solutions provider may be an optimal partner—this is often the case in a company’s early stages of entering the wider market’s technological transformation. Over time, however, the variability in expertise and experience with these new tools and technologies will become higher, and the better value proposition will shift from E2E to flexibility.

This trend unfolded this way within the video industry as it transitioned to Internet protocol and more recently to direct-to-consumer services. Initially demand was stronger for E2E solutions that allowed companies with little initial investments in the streaming market to launch new services quickly and efficiently. As companies developed services and expertise on their own (e.g., because they couldn’t afford to work with the more expensive E2E platforms), the optimal value proposition shifted to platforms that best supported their current partners and allowed them to more seamlessly combine preexisting and new workflows. Flexible platforms that may have previously been viewed as offering too many choices have now become optimal partners to the widest range of companies (AWS is a prime example here). The same is true for C&C, and efforts by Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Verizon Business, and so on are building toward a similarly open and flexible market.

Keep Pushing the Boundaries and Opening Doors


As stated earlier, the pandemic accelerated these trends, but as so many companies sought to work remotely, the pandemic greatly increased the diversity of the market that was seeking new collaborative tools and platforms, creating immense value for flexibility and platform/service adaptability. Some of the weaknesses in preexisting tools like regular video calls were exposed as some users experienced “Zoom fatigue” or felt too removed from the social and cultural aspects of the in-office experience. Until the virtual and real worlds are more seamlessly merged, new innovative features like Microsoft Teams’ Together Mode can help bridge the gap between these two realities, especially when remote work is the best or only way for collaboration to occur. Having an open platform also allows other companies, such as those who specialize in immersive solutions, to better integrate and support these seamless productivity and collaborative tools without having to build them in-house (which, given the scale and base of users, wouldn’t make good strategic or financial sense).

Even though Microsoft may be playing catchup in some areas, it deserves credit for making the right decisions to position itself now and in the future to support the changing C&C market; Microsoft Mesh is a good example of this longer-term vision. Companies need to take an open ecosystem approach versus a narrower focus on products or closed systems. Microsoft could develop add-on collaborative tools and lock-out monetization opportunities for third parties, but this limits the size and reach of its potential market. By opening its platform, Microsoft is encouraging and fostering a vibrant developer market that creates value not only for its user-facing products but also for the tools and services used by developers like Microsoft Azure. Whether it’s a focus from regulatory bodies to address anticompetitive behavior or general trends within industries, the shift to increasingly open ecosystems is the optimal pathway forward, and Microsoft is on the right path.



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