Microsoft today launched Microsoft Teams for Linux in public preview. No, that’s not a typo — Microsoft Teams is indeed the first Office app that the company has ported to Linux. (Microsoft reached out to say it’s the first Office 365 app. Office apps refer to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and so on). You can download Microsoft Teams as a native Linux package in .deb and .rpm formats from here.
Teams is the company’s Office 365 chat-based collaboration tool that competes with Google’s Hangouts Chat, Facebook’s Workplace, and Slack. It’s also Microsoft’s fastest-growing business app ever. In March, Microsoft shared that Teams is used by 500,000 organizations, just two years after launch. In November, Microsoft said Teams had passed 20 million daily active users.
There is a lot of nuance in that figure. Slack, Microsoft Teams’ main rival, is particularly critical of how Microsoft got to 20 million daily active users (Slack has over 12 million daily active users as of October). Nevertheless, Slack is already available for Linux (although still in beta), so Microsoft is playing catch-up here. If you were thinking about adopting Microsoft Teams or Slack at your company, and Linux was the deal-breaker, the decision just got harder.
Not like Skype for Business
Microsoft has shown a lot of love for Linux lately (open-sourcing .NET and taking it cross-platform to Mac and Linux, open-sourcing PowerShell and extending it to Linux, bringing Visual Studio Code to Linux as a Snap, and so on). An Office app on Linux is something else. The operating system has less than 2% desktop market share. Still, it’s much more popular among developers and business users. If Microsoft wants Teams to be the communication tool for everyone, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and the web isn’t enough.
Microsoft promises that Teams for Linux “will support all of Teams’ core capabilities.” If you’re a developer who built an app for Microsoft Teams, you’ll be happy to know that it will work in Slack for Linux as well. Microsoft did not respond to a couple questions in time for publication: what features the app does not support and whether we can expect other Office apps coming to Linux. Update at 1:15 p.m. Pacific: Microsoft declined to comment on plans for other apps coming to Linux. As for the other question, “there are a handful of features related to Office app functionality and screensharing/control in meetings that are not yet available in Linux,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Today’s launch is a notable improvement for companies and schools that rely on Office 365. Microsoft never ported Skype for Business to Linux. As a result, employees with Linux devices had to rely on unofficial and unsupported clients of Skype for Business to communicate with the rest of the company. Now, with Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business, the same has been happening with Teams. First submitted in 2016, a Linux client is the sixth most upvoted request on Microsoft’s UserVoice forum. Microsoft would not say when to expect Microsoft Teams for Linux to launch out of public preview.