Coronavirus pandemic kicks off battle over work-from-home tech
Pandemic-induced telecommuting is spotlighting a new war in business: the fight to dominate work-from-home technologies.
The big picture: For many firms, virtual meeting and chatting software went from nice-to-haves to must-haves as they rushed to replicate the communication and collaboration that happens in person at the office.
- It's a market worth billions, and two front-runners — Slack and Microsoft Teams — have emerged.
The state of play: Both have exploded in use and popularity during the pandemic, as they offer the ability to put the office online.
- In a recent earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the number of daily active Teams users has skyrocketed to 75 million, from 44 million in March.
- Slack's latest number is 12 million daily active users, which it reported in October. It's likely much, much higher now.
- Back in March, just a few days after coronavirus lockdowns began, Slack said active usage minutes per user had spiked 35%.
Startups seem to love Slack — nearly 60% of them pay for it, per Recode.
- But Teams dominates among bigger companies, perhaps because it's free to tack on if you've got a Microsoft 365 subscription, and it integrates seamlessly with Outlook and any other Microsoft products, notes Ben Thompson in his excellent newsletter, Stratechery.
The bottom line, per Thompson:
- "This is what Slack — and Silicon Valley, generally — failed to understand about Microsoft’s competitive advantage: The company doesn’t win just because it bundles, or because it has a superior ground game."
- "By virtue of doing everything, even if mediocrely, the company is providing a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, particularly for the non-tech workers that are in fact most of the market."