Microsoft has unveiled a new service called Teams that offers a real-time communications chat service as a clear rival to Slack.
The new software is an extension of Office 365 Groups, and integrates with Microsoft services including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and SharePoint. It can also handle plug-ins from third parties such as Twitter and Dropbox.
Microsoft Graph is included to help "find the data you need" in context-aware situations, while Microsoft has also added its own chatbots, including Who Bot, which allows users to search a graph to find more information about collaborators.
It also supports emojis and GIFs and integrates with Skype, although there was some expectation that this would be an extension in Skype rather than Microsoft Office.
"We built Microsoft Teams because we see tremendous opportunity and tremendous change in how people and teams get work done," Microsoft said.
"Teams are now more agile and organisational structures more flat to keep communications and information flowing.
"With Microsoft Teams, we aspire to create a more open, digital environment that makes work visible, integrated and accessible - across the team - so everyone can stay in the know."
The service is available in 181 countries as a preview, with general availability in the first quarter of 2017 to Enterprise users of the Office suite. Companion apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phones are also available.
A developer preview programme is open for people who want to start creating plug-ins. Many big names, like Zendesk and ToDoIst, already have plug-ins good to go.
Microsoft rolled out an early test to staff at Accenture to appraise the new service, and the firm's CIO, Andrew Wilson, claimed that the product is already having a big impact.
“Based on our early use of Microsoft Teams in Office 365, we believe it is the digital cockpit we’ve been waiting for,” he said.
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