Slack shows it’s worried about Microsoft Teams with a full-page newspaper ad

Microsoft is just minutes away from unveiling its Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, at an event in New York City today. The software giant is expected to position its Teams software with tight integration into Microsoft Office, Skype, and the company's Office 365 services, and as a direct competitor to Slack. Microsoft hasn't even officially unveiled its Teams service, but that's not stopping Slack from getting some words out before the software maker's event.

In a full back page ad in the New York Times, Slack welcomes Microsoft's competition into the messaging market with some "friendly advice." In a long note, that's also published on Slack's blog, the company warns Microsoft that it's not the features that matter, it's the craftsmanship and human aspects of the software. "We've spent tens of thousands of hours talking to customers and adapting Slack to find the grooves that match all those human quirks," says the Slack team. "The internal transparency and sense of shared purpose that Slack-using teams discover is not an accident. Tiny details make big differences."

Despite being a closed-source software-as-a-service tool, Slack claims that "an open platform is essential" in its warning letter to Microsoft. "The modern knowledge worker relies on dozens of different products for their daily work, and that number is constantly expanding," explains the Slack team. "These critical business processes and workflows demand the best tools, regardless of vendor."

Slack has done a wonderful job at integrating many services into its product, but this doesn't make it an open platform that people can contribute to freely. There are 750 apps in the Slack App Directory, but any of those could disappear at any point because Slack controls the keys. Nobody is expecting Microsoft to do anything different, as that's the key selling point of providing this software as a service to millions of customers, so it's odd to see Slack position itself as "open" in the sense of software.

The final point in Slack's note is an important one, it's all about love. "You'll need to take a radically different approach to supporting and partnering with customers to help them adjust to new and better ways of working," warns the Slack team. "If you want customers to switch to your product, you're going to have to match our commitment to their success and take the same amount of delight in their happiness." That's something Microsoft, as a corporate giant, will have to adjust to, and Slack will always have the edge and focus there.

Slack ends its ad with a defiant message that it's here to stay, no matter what Microsoft announces today, and welcomes the software maker "to the revolution." The entire note sounds like Slack is worried about Microsoft's entry into this market, and the company even admits "it's a little scary." As Ben Thompson points out on Twitter, it's also eerily similar to Apple's welcome to IBM and its personal computers in the Wall Street Journal in 1981, or Rdio's response to Apple Music. We all know how both of those worked out.

Slack has many reasons to fear Microsoft today. While the chat service has seen impressive growth with 4 million daily active users, it's yet to break into all of the big companies that are dominated by Microsoft's productivity tools. Slack has managed to hit 28 out of Fortune 100 companies, and some key customers include IBM, eBay, EA, Pinterest, TIME, and LinkedIn. It all depends on how Microsoft positions Microsoft Teams, but if it's part of what a business is already paying for with Microsoft Office, then it might make many technology officers think twice about paying for Slack on top. We'll find out a lot more about Microsoft Teams at 11AM ET today, and The Verge will be covering Microsoft's news as it happens.


Wow. Free advert for Microsoft.

Someone at Slack needs to binge-watch Mad Men. All this ad has done is put Slack and Microsoft in the same conversation which is bad for Slack since they had an established product.

Also Apple vs Samsung to see why acknowledging your competition only legitimises them.

This ad is a serious contender for the worst ad ever conceived. It’s actually astonishing how bad it is. A wall of text, with the largest text on the page – the only part most people will ever process – being the name of your competitor.


It’s like the passive aggressive notes that would get left in college dorms.

Dear whoever KEEPS eating my sandwiches. They are crafted by my mother with LOVE and DELIGHT and were meant for me alone!

Really showing your start-up mentality here Slack.

SO MUCH THIS. I don’t use Slack but many in my office do and the attitude and elitism Slack and its users embrace is what turned me off in the first place.

You were turned off by your colleagues loving themselves?

Wow what a really bad idea.

Now anyone who didn’t know what slack is now knows a more integrated platform is on the way and they should wait before jumping on it.

Slack isn’t that amazing technically, it’s chatrooms with integration. Anyone could make that and they are worried they can’t make something better than one that completely integrates into corporations existing O365 license.

it’s chatrooms with integration

As a software developer (aka. someone that makes something), it really bugs me when non-technical people say things like, "It just blah blah blah". This is not true and it does not recognize the smarts and time it requires to develop an interesting, reliable, and useful product like Slack (never mind the effort it takes to build a company to build that product).

as another fellow software developer I beg to differ. Technically speaking, slack is incredibly simple. Not that this is an inherently bad thing, mind you, but it somewhat amazes me that they could build such a big company with such a simple product. Slack does nothing that you could not do with a dozen of different products before, yet they somehow managed to make people pay for simple chat functions.

Gotta respect that of course, but the way I see it, slack only made people realize that they wanted something like it in the first place. Now that they created the market, they are going to be sacked by a competitor that does something a little bit better or just has stronger marketing. After all, Slack is one more tool that you need to have, one more account/website/app that your employees need to use. Without having seen it, I see great potential for MS in this field. Almost every company I have seen uses at least some parts of MS Office so they would get the tool on top. No extra charges, no extra account. MS could even integrate it to linkedin etc. doing things that slack just cant offer.

All in all, really I have a bad feeling for slack, in my opinion they are pretty much afraid of MS and rightly so

Microsoft kinda needs to answer that they got "inspired by slacks awesome work" and that a "friendly competition" between the two will ultimately benefit all users of both services.

haha, that’s kind of the worst they could do. Who was the genius ad director approving that?
Good way to make more publicity for Microsoft, and letting the competition you’re afraid.

It’s like hey people, Microsoft is launching this big chat app like ours, but you know we’ve been around for 1-2 years already. Haven’t you heard about us? No? well check us now until microsoft launches in few hours their stuff.

Slack is kind of overhiped software, i use it to transfer files between computers, otherwise it’s kind of an updated version of MIRC.

Slack works really well for media companies, that’s why it gets hyped. Their users love it, which incidentally happen to be tech writers.

Sounds like Twitter

its like they are saying "hey MS you can never be as awesome as WE are because we LOVE our customers and they LOVE us. you are just the big tech turd, people dont LOVE you so dont even bother"

strange….people are strange

If I’m a casual reader (and most are) then I see the "Dear Microsoft" and then read the opening line to see MS being congratulated, and I assume the rest is a "thank you / congrats" message from a MS customer or affiliate.

Dumb move here by Slack

Or, as a casual reader, you’ll probably read the boring headline and immediately turn the page

Haha, horrible ad! This makes me even more curious about Microsoft Teams and want to jump on that ship instead of Slack’s. Terrible terrible ad and free press for Microsoft…also that ad could not have been cheap.

Smart move by Slack, TBH. They get ahead of Microsoft before Microsoft can even announce Teams, and end it with a full color version of their (Slack) logo. Even better, Slack passive aggressively points out Microsoft’s shortcomings and even go as far as to insinuate that Microsoft has jumped the gun. Maybe it’ll work out for them – I hope it does – and maybe it won’t. Either way, this is clever.

If I had any more time I would check whether the director of public relations at Slack is called ‘Ryan Packard’.

Unusual for someone to write their own obituary

You could search and replace "Slack" for "Lotus Notes" and sent this letter 20 years ago. I’ve worked for Microsoft since 1989, and I’ve honestly lost track of how many game-changing, life-affirming, and culture-redefining groupware solutions have been released. As soon as you decide you’re selling a philosophy instead of a technology solution, you’re in trouble.

Persistent group chat is a tool in the toolbox, and only as good as the people using it.

As soon as you decide you’re selling a philosophy instead of a technology solution, you’re in trouble.

This is so true.

When it’s the only way you can differentiate… time to find something new to do.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑