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Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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."

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: AP to call elections for Alexa and other Big Tech channels

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many of the world's biggest tech and telecom companies, like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and AT&T, are licensing the Associated Press' election results to power their voice, video and search products, executives tell Axios.

How it works: Because tech firms need to answer millions of unique voice commands and search queries in real time, the results will be coded through an API — an interface that a computer program can read — designed to handle "not enough results in yet" and "too close to call" cases.

Oct 19, 2020 - Technology

Why education technology can’t save remote learning

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus-sparked shift to widespread remote work has been generally smooth because most modern offices were already using a raft of communication, collaboration and administrative tools. Remote learning has faced a much rougher transition.

Why it matters: Even the best technology can't eliminate the inherent problems of virtual schooling. Several key technological stumbling blocks have persisted in keeping remote learning from meeting its full potential, experts tell Axios.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."