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Microsoft 'Teams' Rival Slack Finds a Partner in Google

Chat-based collaboration service Slack, which competes directly with Microsoft's newly launched "Teams" product, is deepening its ties with Google.

Before launching Teams, Microsoft had reportedly been mulling an acquisition of Slack for $8.5 billion. Microsoft eventually decided to build rather than buy, last month unveiling Teams, which will be added to Office 365 Business and Enterprise subscriptions in early 2017.

Not taking the competition lightly, Slack ran a full-page ad in The New York Times on Nov. 2, the day of the Teams launch, with a lengthy letter to Microsoft warning the company that chat-based collaboration is more complicated than it looks. The move was borrowed from the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who infamously ran the "Welcome IBM, Seriously" ad in 1981 when Big Blue unveiled its first PC.

Apparently realizing that talk is cheap, Slack has found a potentially more potent way to defend its turf by extending its ties with Google. Slack already works with Google Docs, representing one of its early integration deals. Google Drive files are imported into Slack roughly 60,000 times each weekday, according to Google, which calculates that to a file being shared every 1.4 seconds.

Now the two companies have embarked on a joint development pact, which Google announced last week.

"We're increasing our joint product and engineering efforts to strengthen the link between the content in Google Drive and the communication in Slack," said Nan Boden, Google's head of technology partners, in a blog post. The two companies are going to develop the following capabilities:

  • Instant Permissions: Customizable permissions in Google Drive ensures files shared in Slack are immediately available to the proper teammates.

  • Previews and Notifications: Google Drive and Docs notifications will be delivered in Slack, which will enable previews.

  • Slack Channels Tied to Team Drives: A centralized repository for shared content will keep Team Drives synchronized. Team Drives was announced in September and is slated for release early next year. Google said customers will be able to pair Team Drives and Slack channels to keep content and conversations in sync.

  • Provisioning Slack from G Suite: The G Suite (the new name for Google Apps) administrator will be able to provision Slack.

The new Google Team Drives will aim to make it easier for users to find and access files, simplify group scheduling, add more capabilities to the Google Sheets spreadsheet app, and add support for external conferencing, among other near features.

With Microsoft and the Google-Slack tandem targeting next quarter to release their respective new offerings, the battle for the mindshare of millennials in the workplace is set to intensify in the new year.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.