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On Microsoft Teams and building digital ecosystems and platform businesses

In a recent FT article (registration required) based on an interview with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, he makes the point that “Teams is on its way to becoming a digital platform as significant as the internet browser, or a computer operating system”. I work with customers on their use of Microsoft Teams (disclosure) day in and day out and can vouch for a lot of what is in that statement. I cannot share too much other than offer my opinion which is what this post is about.

Two further significant quotes from the interview are listed below. Then a few of my comments:

Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, he called the cloud software a new “organising layer”, pulling together all the tools a worker needs into a single place, as well as acting as a platform for other developers to deliver their own services. The result: collaboration tools, video meetings, chat and other business applications, all reached through a single user interface.

If the world of work has not seen anything quite like it before, there is at least one parallel in the consumer sphere. “In China, WeChat is the internet, that’s a great example,” Mr Nadella said. “There isn’t a western equivalent. If anything, Teams is probably the closest when it comes to the work area.” 

The supremacy of the browser

I’ll focus on the browser aspect of the first quote because the operating system is of far less consequence in my opinion.

I speak for myself but apart from mobile use where generally most time is spent these days, and on Apps, I am very much browser centric. In addition to web surfing, my go to interface for Apps is the browser while many still use client applications, e.g. Outlook client over Outlook Web App. With Edge even more so now because, since switching from Chrome, I can use the same extensions and I think it’s a better browser.

When it comes to the battle for attention, dislodging me from this browser centric focus will take a lot. I would venture to say this is the same for many although I cannot readily find stats to prove this.

In many ways Teams acts like a lite browser because you can bring in web content easily and in many cases the applications embedded in Teams, like those from the M365 suite, are the browser based versions. Right now on my PC, I would say 80% of my work effort is distributed equally between work in Apps via the browser and via Teams (the rest is in desktop apps). Not bad going for Teams although as mentioned, I do work on the product 😉 But for the other 115M daily active users I would venture to say they are not far behind. However, I do think the openness of the browser to just about anything and its rich capabilities will keep me there for a long time to come.

The article goes on to discuss negative feedback from critics about the closed nature of Teams and the forced integration of its own Apps from the M365 suite. I think this is a stretch because Teams opens itself totally to many other Apps and prominently promotes them in an App catalogue which is the sign of a healthy ecosystem strategy. And integrating the other M365 tools just makes sound business and competitive sense which Microsoft customers appreciate.

Digital ecosystems and platform businesses

I wont say too much more about this because I have already written a post about it in summary of a chapter I’m covering in a trend report I am working on: As a Service trend research – technology ecosystems.

Suffice it to say, its not all about technology and its also not an easy thing to do.

I do believe Microsoft Teams is the next breakthrough product for Microsoft and stands to gain even greater importance – I’ve written about its positioning in the enterprise collaboration market here: Thought Rocket: State of Enterprise Collaboration.

Time will tell how it will mature but as a platform, this is very much how it is now being positioned more broadly, see page four of this story:

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