Microsoft on Tuesday said it’s rolling out a Windows 11 update that includes its Chat feature for talking with friends and family members over Microsoft Teams. People who are already testing Windows 11 through the Windows Insider program will be able to try the Chat software before Windows 11 becomes generally available for everyone later this year.
The addition of the component into Windows could bring greater adoption of Teams, which became more popular during the coronavirus pandemic. If more people use Teams, the software could become a more valuable asset in the Office suite, which is currently the largest part of Microsoft’s business.
People can access the Chat feature by entering the keyboard shortcut Win-C (formerly the shortcut for accessing the Cortana virtual assistant) from any screen in Windows 11, Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft senior program manager, wrote in a blog post. An icon is also available in the task bar. Once the Chat window is open, it’s possible to open the full-fledged Microsoft Teams app, which has been redesigned for Windows 11.
Initially, users will only be available to participate in individual and group chats. Support for voice and video calls and other features will come later, LeBlanc wrote, and so far Chat has only been localized for devices using the English language and configured to the U.S. It’s only being rolled out to a limited set of Insiders so far.
Not everyone has to be on Teams in order to exchange messages with people using Chat in Windows 11. If a person using Chat sends a message to a person who’s not on Teams, the recipient will get the message in an email or an SMS message, and Microsoft will provide an option to join Teams, LeBlanc wrote. And it’s possible to sync Skype and Outlook contacts.
Microsoft did add pre-installed Skype apps into Windows 10 in 2015, and last year, after the pandemic arrived, the company tried to make it easy for people to start Skype calls from Windows with a Meet Now feature. With Windows 11, the focus is instead on Teams, which had 145 million daily active users as of April.
If more people do start using Teams as a result of its inclusion in Windows 11 in the form of Chat, that could pose fresh challenges to competitors, including Slack and Zoom.
“Today, Microsoft announced that it is going to bundle Teams with Windows as well as Office,” Slack said on the day Microsoft announced Windows 11. “Our reaction is simple: choice is better than lock-in, open is better than closed, and fair competition is best of all. Unfortunately, Microsoft has never seen it that way.”