The News: The week of Oct 9th, 2022, was especially busy in the technology market. Meta hosted their Connect event on Monday, Google held their Cloud Next event Tuesday through Thursday, Microsoft Ignite was Wednesday through Friday, and with each event came a flood of announcements from the ecosystems of each of these platform providers. In every case, keen-eyed observers saw reactions to the massive impact Microsoft Teams is having on the workplace communications market.
Microsoft’s Dominance on Full Display in a Week Full of Industry News
Analyst Take: As reported in the Wainhouse Online Meeting Spotcheck for Q2 of 2022 and the Enterprise Calling Spotcheck for the same quarter, Microsoft Teams has become the #1 Online Meeting and the #1 Cloud Calling provider globally. This is an incredible achievement for a product that was started at a hackathon and was launched globally in 2017. Much of its success is rooted in the power of the Office 365 bundle, which placed Microsoft Teams on the devices of millions of customers. But the real traction came with the advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic, when IT teams the world over realized that they already had a solution to the new collaborative demands of their organizations that had immediately shifted to remote work. That moment was followed by Microsoft’s decision to lean hard into the product and invest in making it a feature-rich and highly reliable experience. This mix of happenstance and sharp decision-making has led to Microsoft Teams being the undeniable leader in enterprise communications and this has forced the rest of the market to adopt an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach to Teams.
Meta and Microsoft Partner in the Metaverse
In a surprise appearance during Meta’s event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Windows, Office, Teams, and a number of other apps will be available to users of the Quest Pro mixed reality headset. The Microsoft Teams integration will allow Horizon Worlds users to use Teams meetings instead of the native Workrooms meeting solution. In addition, users can join a Microsoft Teams meeting from inside a Horizon Workroom. As for the future, the unlikely pair announced plans for interoperable avatars, support for SharePoint, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook experiences via the Quest Pro, as well as support for Intune and Active Directory for security, authentication, and device management.
Google Workspaces Reacts to the Advances in Microsoft Teams
The list of feature adds related to Google Meet from the Workspace team is bigger than we have seen in some time. Adaptive framing, companion mode for mobile, auto-transcription in meetings, APIs for embedding apps in meetings are, in aggregate, impressive, though not unique, steps forward in the collaborative capabilities from Google. But the absence of radical innovation hints that a choice has been made in how they want to compete with Microsoft. The biggest advancement in Google Meet is embedding collaborative capabilities in the other apps in Workspace. They’re effectively furthering the commoditization of communications experiences in service to productivity. It’s clear that Google would rather take on Office than try to tackle Teams.
Cisco Webex Delivers Interoperability with Microsoft Teams Rooms
Cisco’s Webex Hardware group announced support for a native Microsoft Teams experience on six of their devices, with more to come. When deploying these devices, the administrator can select either the traditional Webex experience or a Microsoft Teams Room experience as the default. This is being done to “meet customers where they are” and better enable all those enterprises with more than one meeting solution in-house, a number that Wainhouse puts at 40% of all enterprises unless you count Shadow IT deployed solutions, in which case the number is much, much higher.
Noticeably absent from this list is Zoom. The vendor with the second most meeting licenses and the fourth most cloud calling licenses has not announced anything related to Microsoft Teams and may well be in a position not to. However, as the support structure for a Microsoft Teams decision grows, it will be harder and harder to stand alone. I believe that an alliance of some kind to bolster the value of the Zoom bundle is required to beat back the tide of Microsoft Teams, and maybe we’ll hear something at Zoomtopia in November.
The Dawn of a New Open Era?
For the last decade or more, each of these major brands, and most other tech giants, have worked diligently to build value in their own ecosystems and have avoided interoperability with the other vendors as best they could. That moment has passed. The momentum now is toward interoperability with Microsoft, but that may only be the start of the story. Once the idea of interoperability is on the table, the platforms may elect to quit being silos and allow users to freely choose the experience that best fits their needs. Meta mentioned they plan to support Zoom meetings in a manner similar to their Microsoft Teams interop. Cisco plans to support more meeting types on its hardware, and to reach a bit deeper in the rabbit hole; the whole idea of the open metaverse, where we all seem to be marching, is to allow free traversal of services and digital environments, and that implies a whole lot of interoperability.
All of this is, without a doubt, a win for users and IT buyers, who will be better able to match their spending to their needs. It will take time for technology and commercial models to find their groove, but in the end, the walls between communications platforms will be torn down and I, for one, am looking very forward to it.
Disclosure: This is a guest contribution from Wainhouse Research, part of The Futurum Group family of companies. Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research and/or Wainhouse Research as a whole.
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The original version of this article was first published on Wainhouse Research.