To expand the reach of its Microsoft Teams product, Microsoft has announced that the Office 365 group chat tool is now available for Linux.
The Microsoft Team product is being made available in a public preview in .deb and .rpm formats starting immediately, with all Linux users' capabilities, although the product is targeted primarily toward working with Linux on desktop applications.
One of the goals of the public preview release is for Microsoft to get feedback from the Linux user community over the next few months.
This would allow Microsoft to enhance the collaborative capabilities of Teams for Linux, representing a significant shift from Microsoft’s traditional approach to the needs of the open-source community.
The move represents a significant step for Microsoft in several ways. For starters, Microsoft is reaching out to the open-source community, which has often lacked solutions when Linux users need the group chat capability provided by tools like Microsoft Teams.
Another aspect of the release is the numbers game. Microsoft would like to get Teams into the hands of more users, and the best way to do this is to expand the number of platforms that Teams can run on. Microsoft has acknowledged that users have devices running on multiple platforms, including both Windows 10 and Linux, and the ability to support mixed environments would considerably up the reach of Teams.
It would also pave the way toward the start of the availability of multiple analogous Microsoft products. Given that Microsoft Team is the first Office 365 app coming to Linux desktops, it also sparked speculation about other Office products that may follow.
Microsoft has indicated that OneDrive could be added to the list, raising the possibility that other apps such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel may also be making the migration to Linux. Some Linux customers have also requested that the full range of Office 365 products be available, so that option is on the table down the road. However, Microsoft refused to comment on it in conjunction with this release. The Teams app is already available for Windows and the Mac, and those with iOS and Android can also use it.
Some observers believe this move is a response to a Microsoft rival, Slack, that already offers a group chat app for Linux users. The presence of Slack as a competitor may be a serious motivator for Microsoft. As of this month, Slack is believed to have approximately 12 million daily users, and it may not be a coincidence that Microsoft announced that it reached 13 million users.
The effort to make Teams available for Linux started in 2016 when Teams for Linux became a top request from users on the Teams UserVoice site. But the fact that Microsoft has a complex, multilayered history with the open-source community is close to being common knowledge. Microsoft initially maintained a proprietary stance for decades, but now that position appears to be slowly changing.
It has taken years for Microsoft to accept and then embrace the open-source concept and the need to support a mixed environment. The possibility that other Office 365 apps could follow is a significant change for Microsoft as well.
Covid-19 could be playing an inadvertent role as well. Companies now need to digitize their communication to reduce any platform or format barriers, and that capability is no longer an option in today’s environment.
The move also represents a recognition that educational institutions are involved in using these kinds of apps. Linux mentioned these users in its announcement about what Microsoft is doing. Many elite companies such as Volvo are Linux users who have expressed a need to have collaborative capability across different platforms. This launch of Teams could also indicate that there may soon be an improved Progressive Web App version of Office available.
Another product closely associated with this release is Microsoft’s new Fluid Framework. This product works with the concept of documents and transforms them into a cloud app in which multiple users can contribute tables, text and graphs. The idea is to combine the capabilities of older products such as words with newer ones in a single hub.
In terms of look and feel, the Teams app for Linux appears the same as what is now available on Windows and macOS. The big question now is whether this sets the stage for the release of other Office 365 products for Linux later this year and beyond.
Have you tried Microsoft Teams on Linux? Which version did you install it on? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading.