Microsoft Is Challenging Slack With a Chat System Featuring an Army of 85 Bots

They will provide workers more assistance

Microsoft, as expected at its Office event today, pulled back the curtain on its Slack competitor, which is called Microsoft Teams. Since launching in 2009, Slack has become a popular, real-time chat system for companies and organizations that want employees to communicate in a more seamless fashion than email.

With Microsoft Teams, the tech giant is mimicking some of Slack's features, including departmental channels/chat rooms, app-search capabilities and the sharing of GIFs and memes. What businesses might find more enticing is the 85 artificial intelligence bots built into Microsoft Teams. For instance, WhoBot can inform employees about their coworkers. As an example, "Who is John Doe?" Then there's T-Bot, which can add ideas to conversations and answer questions, particularly ones that pertain to the software. 

The system integrates with Office 365, the company's full-service-minded package that entails software like Outlook, Power BI, OneNote and Planner. Whether creating cross-channel software uniformity with the Microsoft brand will attract organizations away from Slack will be worth watching. That seems especially true since Microsoft also owns chat systems Yammer and Skype.

"How to assemble a high-performance team and setting them up for success is one of the central pursuits for any organization," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the late morning event. "No two teams are the same, no two projects are the same. There's no universal tool for teams, but rather a universal toolkit we call office 365. Empowering teams is more than just solving any logistical challenge of bringing people to the same place."

Microsoft Teams debuts today with 150 launch partners, such as Zendesk, Asana and HootSuite. It will roll out more generally in Q1 2017.

Meanwhile, Slack took out a full-page ad in today's New York Times, ahead of Microsoft's event. The ad was reminiscent of Apple's 1981 'Seriously' ad, from Chiat\Day, which welcomed IBM to personal computing by making it clear all the work that Apple had already done to dominate the space. With its ad, Slack uses a similarly condescending tone, laying out everything it has learned since launching three years ago.