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VentureBeat’s Bots Channel tracks the most important news and analysis from the exploding field of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and a good number of posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.

Here’s this week’s newsletter:

Yesterday’s announcement from Microsoft that it was launching Teams to compete with Slack was a long time coming. After all, what company can better claim to own the enterprise market than the maker of what is now called Office 365? But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Slack.

Founded in 2009, the company has established an impressive beachhead in the daily work lives of 4 million employees who use the messaging service’s free or paid version. And as a platform for apps — or bots — Slack has real momentum. In February 2016, the company reported 260 apps in its App Directory; in October it listed 746 apps. Slack has become a very efficient way to handle tasks within CRM applications, manage HR functions like expense reports and hiring, and even to organize lunch with colleagues. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Teams will leverage bots from the company’s Bot Framework.

Let’s not forget that Microsoft Office has more than one billion users worldwide and that 2 million people pay to use Office 365 — a requirement to access Teams. Slack meanwhile has only 1.25 million paid users. Yet it does have a free version to entice people to fall in love with its service and, based on its current numbers, can boast of a better than 20 percent conversion rate. Microsoft, on the other hand? Infinitesimally small: 0.000000002.

Microsoft would be wise to follow Slack’s freemium approach, a lesson it should have learned by now.

As always, please send news tips to Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to John Brandon. Be sure to visit our Bots Channel for comprehensive news on bots and messaging.

Thanks for reading,

— Blaise Zerega

Editor in Chief

P.S. Last week we included the wrong link to this video of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos discussing privacy, Alexa, and artificial intelligence. Apologies for the error. Please enjoy!


From the Bots Channel


IFTTT-1IFTTT scraps recipes for multi-device commands called applets

Today IFTTT, a company that connects AI-powered assistants, wearables, apps, and the Internet of Things, will terminate three of its apps, launch a new app, and kill off the recipes its been known for since its launch in 2010. Recipes will be replaced by “applets.” Some applets will have the same 1-1 connections that allow […]

Read the full story

microsoft_teamsMicrosoft Teams is a Slack competitor that’s part of Office 365

At its Office event in New York City today, Microsoft announced Microsoft Teams. Previously known as Skype Teams internally, this is the company’s answer to Slack. The service — with Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and web apps — is available as a preview in 181 countries and 18 languages. Microsoft is aiming for general availability […]

Read the full story

NYPD VigilanteApple removes Vigilante live crime alert tool from the App Store

Live crime alert app Vigilante was removed from the iOS App Store late last week after only two days of operation. Vigilante — available only in New York City at launch — sends users a push notification of crimes in progress so they can either choose to avoid the area or go to the scene to broadcast […]

Read the full story

How a Siri reminder works with Convo.

Moving from virtual assistants to virtual specialists

Today, the virtual assistant landscape is exploding with innovation: New applications and new forms of interaction are constantly emerging. Although the idea of a virtual assistant is decades old, it went mainstream with Apple’s introduction of Siri. Siri was created at SRI International based on years of AI research, spun off as an independent venture-backed […]

Read the full story

code brainDid Microsoft just outwit Silicon Valley’s coolest tech startup?

I was shocked to read today that IBM and Slack are partnering so that Slack can use Watson to improve their Slackbot’s cognitive capabilities. It seemed like Slack may be outsourcing the one thing that could become their most valuable strength. Except as I thought about it more, I wasn’t surprised. Slack may have been […]

Read the full story

Related coverage

What Chatbots Are Teaching Us About the Future of Marketing

Chatbots are treated like the simpletons of the artificial intelligence world, overshadowed by movie-trailer-creating Watson and its ilk, or the suggestion engines of huge etailers. (via Adweek)

Read the full story


Banks Bet on the Next Big Thing: Financial Chatbots

Your bank really wants to chat. This week Bank of America MasterCard, and several financial start-ups announced new tools — known as chatbots — that will allow customers to ask questions about their financial accounts, initiate transactions and get financial advice via text messages or services like Facebook Messenger and Amazon’s Echo tower. (via The New York Times)

Read the full story


On Twitter, Trump bots are out-tweeting Clinton bots 7 to 1

A huge percentage of election-related talk on Twitter isn’t coming from humans. It’s coming from bots.
And the majority of those bots are gunning for Trump to win the race, according to a paper released yesterday from Oxford University’s Project on Computational Propaganda. (via Recode)

Read the full story


China’s WeChat messenger tests its own version of instant apps

WeChat might not mean much here in the US, but in Asia, the messaging app boasts some 800 million users. Its next step toward dominance is “small programs” that act like apps within the chat service, according The Information. (via Engadget)

Read the full story


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