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Microsoft wants the world to run on Teams

Microsoft wants the world to run on Teams

Good morning! This Wednesday, Microsoft is banking on Teams as the future of Office 365, Twitter's getting into shopping now, too, California gig workers say Prop. 22 isn't working, and Charter is in hot water with the FCC.

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The Big Story

Go Teams!

Microsoft made tons of announcements during its Build conference on Tuesday, but one thing stood out: the focus on making Teams more developer-friendly. And the push shows just how much Microsoft is relying on the platform as the future of Office 365.

  • The updates follow Microsoft's move last year to let developers build applications that integrate directly into Teams meetings. That opened up the possibility for native onscreen displays of charts, for example, to avoid forcing people to share their desktop with others.
  • Now, the company is giving developers greater access to APIs to encourage them to build more of those types of apps.
  • Microsoft also unveiled a new feature that lets people create their own customer meeting setups. So instead of having to look at a hodgepodge of different square screens, the product captures a participant's face and shoulders and places them in a virtual space.

Microsoft is trying to transform Teams from a simple videoconferencing tool to a full-scale collaboration environment, attempting to tap the most-missed features of in-person meetings. Whether the illusion of being in the same room as another participant actually improves outcomes, however, remains to be seen.

  • One of the more exciting, but less fleshed-out new features is Fluid Framework, which is Microsoft's early attempt to eliminate the boundaries between products like Excel and Word.
  • The company will also soon allow in-app purchases within the Teams store, but it is unclear whether it will take a portion of those sales.
  • And it's letting developers tap real-time audio and video data from Teams. Companies like Chorus.ai, for example, already analyze that information to give users feedback on metrics like how well they adhered to the overall sales strategy. Now, organizations will be able to build their own custom apps that rely on that information.

The focus on Teams is no surprise. Microsoft says it now has 145 million daily active users, which makes the platform — at least, by numbers alone — the most dominant workplace video and messaging app. But the challenges ahead for Microsoft go well beyond just making it more developer-friendly.

Microsoft's efforts come amid an explosion of new software. Employees are now using a bunch of tools, like Jira and Workday, to manage their work, and in a large enterprise, there are probably thousands more. And few tech leaders doubt that number will substantially decrease.

But app providers say it's going to be impossible for those integrations to be robust enough to prevent people from having to switch off of Teams, despite Microsoft's push. It's a problem that rival Slack also faces.

  • "Those are communication applications. They are increasingly trying to do more pieces of work in those applications, but they are not the default work application," Atlassian co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes previously told Protocol. "It's a nice marketing spin for them, but realistically that's bullshit. That's not what actually happens."

Microsoft clearly has a huge opportunity with Teams. But it's failed several times in the past at scaling similar platforms, like Skype and SharePoint, for example.

  • But if the new world of hybrid work unfolds in the way many are predicting, Teams will play an increasingly important role as a messaging and video service.
  • Whether it can go beyond that, however, is a much bigger challenge. And many vendors think the days of a single collaboration platform within an enterprise are long gone.

Still, it's Microsoft's battle to lose right now. And the recent announcements give an exciting window into where the company thinks it can take Teams.

— Joe Williams (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

A recent survey found that Slack users save an average of 90 minutes a day and forge better connections using Slack instead of email. However, email has been the default communication tool at work for nearly 50 years. It's time for a change.

Learn more

People Are Talking

At Build, Satya Nadella also promised a huge change to Windows coming soon:

  • "I've been self-hosting it over the past several months, and I'm incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows. Our promise to you is this: We will create more opportunities for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications."

Big Tech should help pay to close the broadband gap, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said:

  • "Big Tech has been enjoying a free ride on our internet infrastructure while skipping out on the billions of dollars in costs needed to maintain and build that network … Ordinary Americans, not Big Tech, have been footing the bill for those costs."

The chip shortage is in part a forecasting problem, Flex's Revathi Advaithi said:

  • "We're in the middle of this with customers, with suppliers, with foundries. I think it all begins for the simple reason that most companies are not great at giving forward-looking forecasts. The idea that everything has more electronics has been happening for a while. The idea that chip content is going up is understood, but nobody's good at forecasting these things."

Twitter's getting into shopping, too, CFO Ned Segal said:

  • "You should be able to click and buy something on Twitter. We've come to appreciate that people do a lot of research on Twitter before they buy something."

Making Moves

Noom raised $540 million, which is obviously an enormous number, and added Silver Lake's Adam Karol and former TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot to its board.

Google got approval for its sprawling new 80-acre San Jose campus, and plans to start construction as soon as next year. Good time to re-read Anna Kramer's story about the project!

Vimeo had a rough first day on the market. After spinning out of IAC, its IPO got off to a tepid start, but CEO Anjali Sud said she's looking to M&A to keep the company growing.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: The District of Columbia sued Amazon for antitrust violations. Yet another antitrust fight, yes, but this one comes with a twist: D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is actually alleging that Amazon is forcing consumers to pay more, which makes it a much more straightforward monopoly argument than most against Big Tech.
  • A group of Amazon employees called on leadership to support Palestinians. This has become a big issue inside tech companies, with letters and petitions being sent around Google and Apple as well asking for executives to speak up.
  • On Protocol: Charter is in trouble with the FCC. It has been forcing customers who sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit to also opt into a non-discounted plan later, which seems to contradict the FCC's rules.
  • WhatsApp sued the Indian government over its new "traceability" laws. WhatsApp said the rules are a violation of privacy rights and "would break end-to-end encryption."
  • Google has a new OS. It's called Fuchsia, and has been in development for years while rumors flew about what it might be for. The truth is slightly boring: It's for the original Nest Hub, and doesn't do anything new yet. But it's out there.
  • On Protocol: Gig workers in California say Prop. 22 isn't working. They're finding benefit application processes to be confusing and complicated, and say a stipend they were promised all too often doesn't materialize.
  • Xiaomi is off the blacklist. A U.S. District Court vacated its designation as a "Communist Chinese military company," which means American companies can trade with Xiaomi again. No such luck for Huawei yet, though.
  • Steam is building a portable console similar to the Nintendo Switch, Ars Technica reported. This has been rumored for some time, but the so-called "SteamPal" seems to be inching closer to reality.
  • Bose was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this year. The hackers got access to employee HR files, but the company said there's no evidence the data was leaked.

Work in the Future

Get your contacts in order

You know what post-pandemic life means, right? It's back to business card life! Plus in general there are people who are good at maintaining contact lists, and there are people who just search their email for people's names every time they need to find someone. If you're in the latter camp, first of all, welcome to the club. Second, here's an app that might help: Cardhop, a newly updated Mac and iOS app that makes it easier to add and manage contacts, even by snapping a picture of a business card. (Pro tip: Just copy and paste someone's email signature into the app, and it'll parse all the relevant info for you.) It's a much easier way to remember everyone you meet during your Hot Vax Summer.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

A recent survey found that Slack users save an average of 90 minutes a day and forge better connections using Slack instead of email. However, email has been the default communication tool at work for nearly 50 years. It's time for a change.

Learn more

Update: This story has been updated to better explain the situation with Charter and the FCC.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.


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