If Microsoft wanted to stir up controversy before the Ignite 2017 conference…they sure succeeded!
Last week the Skype for Business community got two major announcements. One appears accidental. The other was not. But both have certainly drummed up a lot of speculation, confusion, and derision.
Not without cause either. Let’s take a good hard look at what we know, and what we think we know, about Microsoft’s future plans for Skype for Business and Teams.
Teams Absorbing Skype for Business?
First, the accidental announcement. On September 7, sharp-eyed Office 365 users caught this screenshot after logging in.
It was quickly removed after social media lit up.
Later the same day, Microsoft posted a message to the O365 admin portal, saying the company planned on “upgrading” Skype for Business to Teams over the next year. They specified that since it’s early-stages for such a move, the change is opt-in, and no one needs to do anything.
Then it removed THAT message a few minutes later.
Further calls for Microsoft to elaborate, to my knowledge, have gone unanswered.
Tony Redmond at Petri.com speculates that this could mean a new client, melding Teams’ chat functions with Skype4B’s voice & IM tools. If this is indeed moving forward, a “universal” Teams/Skype4B client does make a lot of sense.
Others expressed concern that folding Skype for Business into Teams would end up becoming a mess that wrecks both platforms. Still others decried what they see as Microsoft throwing them yet another branding curveball.
I think they’re ALL right.
If true, this was a damaging leak for Microsoft. It belies a migration path few asked for, and clearly some do not want. Either Microsoft has some explaining to do, or they’re about to take two well-received communications systems and smash them together. Because they can.
This really wasn’t the change I anticipated. I expected the reverse would happen: Skype for Business would absorb Teams’ chat and group functions. Replacing Persistent Chat (which, though I love it, is probably the least-used S4B tool).
All that said, there is one point with which I agree. Most of the other communications platforms out there – Slack, Cisco’s Spark, Fuze, HipChat – use short, easy-to-remember brand names. “Teams” as a brand name, is shorter and easier to recall than “Skype for Business.”
Maybe Teams’ initial success prompted Microsoft to explore expanding its brand. We’ll see pretty soon.
Teams Gets its Guest Access! (Sort of. Eventually?)
A full quarter after Microsoft had originally planned to release Teams guest access…it’s arrived.
Kind of. Maybe.
Microsoft announced the new Guest Access feature on September 11. According to the existing details, here’s how Guest Access works.
Stage 1: Anyone with an existing Azure Active Directory account (e.g. an Office 365 user) can now be added as a Teams guest user. (Occurring Now)
Stage 2: Anyone with a free Microsoft Account (MSA) can be added as a Teams guest user. (Coming Soon)
Stage 3: Anyone with a valid email address can be added as a Teams guest user. (The ideal, but I don’t know when this is happening!)
What kind of reaction did this get? Take a wild guess. No, worse than that.
I went over to UserVoice to see what others had to say:
External Access and Federation: Microsoft Teams UserVoice
The thread has exploded with almost-universal cries of disappointment. At time of this post’s publication, there are 563 comments. Just over 80 of them came in after the Guest Access announcement. Nearly all of those are negative.
People are trying & failing to enable Guest Access. Reporting big bugs (failure to add guests on mobile, for example). Pointing out that this is NOT what the users asked for.
My thoughts? I agree. This is not what users asked for. This is not Guest Access. It’s just a type of federation.
If adding guest access were only a case of a few bugs, I’d understand. Teams is a cloud offering; that means a huge variety of possible use cases. A few bugs aren’t a big deal.
However, this isn’t just bugs. This is a major stumbling block. Microsoft has taken Teams, a rapidly-growing product, and put the brakes on its growth.
They have effectively told users, “No, you will invite who we say you can invite, when we say you can. You don’t like it? What are you going to do, leave Office 365?”
And the thing is, that’s exactly what they will do. If a big part of users’ Office 365 experience doesn’t work how they work, they WILL leave the service and go elsewhere. Slack already lets you invite whomever you want. Same with Teams’ other competitors.
If I were Slack, Google, Fuze, or even Cisco, I’d work furiously to make some productivity-related software available to my chat customers. Integrate with a cloud email provider (or create one). Partner with LibreOffice or a cloud-based office app service.
You’ve already got a good assortment of chat/voice/video tools. Add productivity tools, and you’ll give Microsoft’s user base an option that actually caters to their needs.
(I don’t say this to drive people away from Teams, or Skype for Business. I say this because it’s probably the only way to make Microsoft listen!)
Ignite Has Some Explaining to Do
These presenters have some explaining to do. I hope we get some solid answers.
Are you going to Ignite? If so, please make note to share your experience with us in the comments! I’m sadly unable to attend, but you can bet I’ll keep track of the results.