Microsoft is giving software developers the option to build apps for Teams in its Visual Studio development environment — making a bid for more third-party apps for its communication and collaboration platform as it competes against Slack, Zoom, Google and others for attention from distributed workers and their employers.
The news, announced at the Microsoft Build conference, is meant to encourage more developers to create Teams apps for internal use at large companies, or to offer publicly in Microsoft’s AppSource marketplace. Developers previously made Teams apps manually, or using the App Studio inside Microsoft Teams.
It’s a classic move by Microsoft, enlisting support from its traditional customer base to bolster its position against its rivals in a booming market.
The company is enabling the development capabilities for Teams apps through new extensions in Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, which ranked as the two most popular development environments in a survey last year of nearly 90,000 developers by the Stack Overflow online forum. The new integration is one of several new integrations and capabilities that the company is offering for developing Teams apps.
Slack currently offers more than 2,000 third-party apps, more than four times the number of apps that are publicly available for Microsoft Teams through AppSource. Slack has similarly been streamlining and upgrading third-party app development, seeking better integrations with popular business applications and online services.
The new capabilities in Visual Studio include the option to publish Teams apps directly to AppSource or to an internal organizational app catalog. The company is also improving the search experience for Microsoft Teams apps, and adding new features to streamline the purchasing of apps by IT administrators inside Teams.
Usage of Microsoft Teams has grown significantly, along with other collaboration platforms, due to the unprecedented rise in remote work in the COVID-19 crisis. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the company’s April 29 earnings call that Teams has surpassed 75 million daily active users, up more than 70% from the 44 million daily active users reported by Microsoft on March 19.
The company’s Productivity and Business Processes division, which includes Teams, grew 15% to $11.7 billion in revenue in the quarter. Teams is included with Microsoft 365 subscriptions for businesses, and companies need to upgrade to higher versions of those plans to unlock more advanced features of the program, such as video calls. Microsoft is also adapting Teams for personal and family use.