Microsoft's Slack Rival Shows How Its Office Franchise Has Been Reborn

It wasn't long ago that conventional wisdom viewed Microsoft's (MSFT)  Office productivity suite as a cash cow due to see little, if any, growth as PC sales fell and Google Apps took share. The best-case scenario, according to this view, was that Microsoft could keep Office sales from declining while using the franchise's profits to invest in software and cloud services that could actually drive future growth.

The story looks a little different today, thanks in large part to the way Microsoft has used its Office 365 platform as a way to expand the breadth and usefulness of its productivity suite for both consumers and business users. This week's launch of a collaboration app that's baked into corporate Office 365 subscriptions continues the trend.

On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled Teams, an app that provides a common, cloud-based workspace--accessible via web browsers and mobile apps--for employees to chat, share files and collaborate on projects. The product already integrates with over 150 apps from third parties via browser tabs, chatbots and app connectors, with more promised courtesy of a developer program.

Not surprisingly, one of the unique selling points of Teams is its integration with such existing Office apps as Word, Excel and PowerPoint to access files and move between apps. It also integrates with the Skype for Business unified communications service to enable voice and video conferences, and with the Graph platform, which lets developers create services that can pull up and share information from different Microsoft products.

Teams also supports threaded chats, a feature not yet supported by fast-growing collaboration startup and Silicon Valley darling Slack. Slack, which has topped 3 million daily active users, was valued at $3.8 billion in a spring funding round and has created a sizable developer ecosystem, is widely seen as the product Microsoft is targeting first and foremost with Teams.

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