Slack CEO: Microsoft is ‘unhealthily preoccupied with killing us’

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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield claimed earlier this month that Microsoft Teams isn’t a competitor to Slack. In an interview with The Verge, Butterfield has revealed that, inside Slack, the company feels that “Microsoft is perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with killing us, and Teams is the vehicle to do that.”

Butterfield sat down with Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel for a wide-ranging interview that discusses Slack’s battles with Microsoft Teams, the future of Slack, new Slack features, and much more. It’s well worth a listen.

Butterfield expands on why he thinks Microsoft is “unhealthily preoccupied” with Slack and compares Teams to more of a competitor to Zoom. Slack obviously has its own voice and video calling features, but it’s not the primary focus of the app, and often, businesses integrate Zoom or Cisco’s WebEx instead. Microsoft has been moving businesses from Skype for Business to Teams, which traditionally focused on voice and video calling.

Ultimately, Butterfield thinks Microsoft is trying to force the Teams comparison because “Microsoft benefits from the narrative that Teams is very competitive with Slack. Even though the reality is it’s principally a voice and video calling service.”

Microsoft’s Slack comparison from July 2019.

Butterfield highlights a Microsoft press release from July last year that specifically mentions Slack’s daily active users compared directly to Teams. “No software company has ever done that,” explains Butterfield. “Like, maybe at the height, Oracle would do something like that … But literally, no one else would ever do that. Microsoft has never done that before.”

Butterfield believes this “speaks to the commitment they have there” and that Microsoft’s efforts are uniquely targeted at Slack. He even references a Verge interview where Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, claims Slack won’t have the “breadth and depth” to reinvent work. Butterfield says if you Google for “Slack Spataro,” you’ll find a “bunch of shit-talking about how Slack isn’t very good,” but the same can’t be found for Spataro and Okta, Google, or Amazon.

Butterfield thinks this is because Microsoft’s entire Office empire is threatened if Slack does well, whereas if Zoom does well, it only threatens video and voice calling. “In a different universe where Slack is incredibly successful over the next two years and 98 percent of knowledge workers use Slack, it does matter to Microsoft because the relative importance of email is hugely diminished,” explains Butterfield. “If email becomes less important, then that whole $35, $40 billion-a-year collaboration productivity business unit is threatened.”

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