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Slack channels Steve Jobs when calling out Microsoft

by David Gilbert
Nov 2 2016, 1:55pm

Taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times is a pretty bold move for a tech startup, especially one that’s facing big competition from a behemoth like Microsoft. But that’s just what Slack did on Wednesday, hours before Microsoft unveiled Teams, a product designed to compete directly with Slack.

In the “Dear Microsoft” ad, Slack said it was “genuinely excited to have some competition” in the team-messaging space and offered some pretty specific advice, like don’t just copy Slack.

Calling out new competition is sort of a tradition in tech, and Slack’s ad echoes an iconic ad placed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in the Wall Street Journal in 1981 welcoming IBM to the personal computing market.

At a press conference in New York on Wednesday, Microsoft described Teams as a “chat-based workspace in Office 365” that looks and works very much like Slack, offering many of the same features Slack does. A huge part of the Teams demo showed how well it will integrate with Office, Skype, Yammer, and many other Microsoft products.

Known as the “email killer,” Slack’s popularity among tech companies and media organizations has meant it gets a lot of attention. TechCrunch reported that Microsoft had even considered buying the company for $8 billion before deciding it could build a better solution from scratch.

Slack’s growth has been rapid, and while it may have slowed recently, its most recent figures showed its daily active users growing at over 33 percent over the last five months and now stand at over 4 million. Slack counts companies like IBM, eBay and Condé Nast among its customers. LinkedIn is also a customer, but given Microsoft just paid $26 billion to acquire the professional networking site, it’s a good bet LinkedIn will be switching to Teams.

Just like Apple vs. IBM in 1981, it’s unclear who will come out on top in the Microsoft-Slack battle. On the one hand, Microsoft has big advantages in the enterprise field, thanks to the long and deep partnerships it has established with businesses of all sizes over decades of selling Windows and Office licenses. Slack might have proven resistant to challenges thus far, but with Microsoft Teams on the way and Facebook’s Workplace just recently launched, Slack’s confident assertion today that it “is here to stay” will certainly be tested.