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Skype Teams emerges as Microsoft's answer to team-based chat tool Slack

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Although Microsoft actually considered purchasing team messaging app Slack for a hefty $8 billion earlier this year, the company reportedly moved on to build its own solution for team-based chats based on Skype instead. That service has now emerged in a leak as “Skype Teams,” and similar to Slack, users will be able to chat with team members in dedicated chat rooms (channels), and speak directly to comrades using the service’s direct messaging feature.

If you’re not familiar with Slack, it’s a cloud-based service dedicated to team communication launched back in August 2013. That said, it’s relatively new compared to other chat clients on the internet, and has become popular to the point where Microsoft actually wanted to acquire the service. Slack can be accessed on a huge number of devices running Windows, Max OS X, Chrome OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

In some ways, Slack is similar to IRC, only the service doesn’t use IRC servers. The difference is that unlike IRC, you’re seemingly locked to a specific “team” that contains numerous channels within. Users can perform searches inside this team, send files, create custom emoji buttons, and so on. There are no obvious channel operators or a list of connected individuals like IRC, but channels can be created and locked to keep specific team members out of that particular chat.

What Slack doesn’t currently provide are threaded conversations, a feature Microsoft is injecting into its Skype Teams competitor. This will be similar to how Facebook users can reply to a specific comment by hitting on a reply button. In Slack, you’re presented with one response after another in an ordered line, with a reply to someone’s comment not appearing until a few lines down the page.

According to a recent report, Skype Teams will be based on core Skype technologies such as making video calls in a channel, or making them in private messages. Skype Teams will also have the ability to schedule online meetings, which is likely going to be powered by the company’s acquisition of Genee, a service backed by artificial intelligence for the “smart” scheduling and rescheduling of meetings. As far as we know, Genee will be incorporated into Office 365.

Given that this new team-based service will be based on Skype, users should expect all the great chat-based bells and whistles that made Skype so popular. Like Slack, expect Skype Teams to work with external services, namely Office 365 and OneDrive in the case of Skype Teams. Slack currently supports Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Box, and more third-party services.

The report adds that Skype Teams will include a feature called “The Fun Picker,” allowing users to inject all kinds of fun stuff into their group chats rather than just static GIFs. The client will even have a sidebar to quickly access the many features of Microsoft’s service including an Activity tab, a Chat tab, a Teams tab, a Meetings tab, and a Files tab.

Right now, Microsoft is reportedly testing Skype Teams internally. The first clients are expected to be provided as Web and Windows-based apps, followed by Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Skype Teams will supposedly be offered to Office 365 subscribers first before becoming available to everyone else. When that will take place is unknown for the moment.

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