On the eve of its 2018 partner conference, Inspire, Microsoft has launched a freebie version of its Slack-alike collaboration platform, Teams.
While Redmond has put a brave face on things, claiming 200,000 businesses over 181 markets are happily collaborating in the shiny new Teams world, Slack merely applies some oil to its hipster beard and points to its eight million users over 500,000 organisations.
Although Microsoft's offering boasts all manner of exciting integration with applications, such as its Office 365 platform, users have not flocked to the service. Redmond has therefore opted to tackle what they see as the biggest hurdle to adoption. Cost.
Up until now, Teams has not compared well to Slack in this regard. Slack offers a free tier, giving up to 10,000 messages, 10 apps (such as collaboration darling Trello) and one-to-one video calling. Teams, er, doesn't.
One can almost envisage the meeting room where this problem was discussed and a Slack free tier feature list thrown up onto a handy Surface Hub. The response from Microsoft appears to be to simply give the thing away.
As of today, Teams now has its very own free tier with all manner of goodies aimed at luring users from the arms of Slack and into the embrace of Microsoft.
Teams squares up to its sandal-wearing, craft beer-sipping competitor with an unlimited and searchable message history and audio and video one-to-one or group calling. The user can also select from as many of the 140 or so apps as they want. Finally, Microsoft hands over 10GB of team file storage, and 2GB of storage per person, which compares favourably with Slack's 5GB of total storage.
Aiming fairly and squarely at the small to medium-sized business sector, as well as non-profits, the caring, sharing and free Teams allows up to 300 members, none of whom actually need a Microsoft account to use the thing.
Sadly, the free version does not entirely escape nagware, with a discreet suggestion that "hey, maybe you might like to upgrade" lurking at the top of the conversation window, but otherwise the system is refreshingly free of frippery.
With the new tier more a torpedo aimed amidships rather than a shot across the bows, it will be interesting to see how Slack responds. In the meantime, Microsoft has opened up the system to pretty much anyone who fancies a play. Go fill your boots, or fire up that IRC client like it's 1995. ®