In a blog post, Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager at Microsoft, explained the update in a blog post, stating, "Starting with this build, Chat is now Microsoft Teams - Free. Microsoft Teams - Free is pinned by default to the taskbar and can be unpinned like other apps on the taskbar."
Initially integrated deeply into the operating system, the original Teams integration in Windows 11, known as Chat, came with default pinning to the taskbar, necessitating users to navigate through Settings to remove it. The Chat feature offered consumers the ability to use Microsoft Teams to connect with friends and family. However, it was restricted to personal use only, rendering it useless for the majority of Microsoft Teams users who rely on the app for work. As a result, Windows 11 users could end up with two different versions of Teams, causing confusion when managing work-related and personal calls.
Up until now, Microsoft had been continually adding new features to Chat within Windows 11. Recent enhancements included improved video calling capabilities in October and the introduction of Discord-like communities and an AI art tool earlier this month. The integrated Chat functionality was based on the Microsoft Teams 2.0 client, which served as the foundation for the updated Microsoft Teams app currently being rolled out to businesses.
The decision to remove the built-in Teams client in Windows 11 follows closely after Microsoft's announcement to discontinue support for Cortana on the new operating system later this year. With a new financial year on the horizon, Microsoft appears to be redirecting its focus towards other projects for Windows, such as the AI-powered Windows Copilot tool.
"AI will revolutionize the way we do everything on Windows." There is no doubt that AI will play a critical role in a future major Windows release.” said Panos Panay, Windows CEO.
Furthermore, these changes to Teams come on the heels of Microsoft's reported agreement to stop bundling Teams with Office. In an effort to address concerns raised by EU regulators, Microsoft made the decision to no longer require Office customers to install Teams on their devices. This move aims to prevent a formal antitrust probe by the European Commission following a complaint filed by rival platform Slack in 2020, criticizing Microsoft's bundling practices.
As Microsoft continues to fine-tune its offerings and explore new avenues for Windows, the revamp of Microsoft Teams integration in Windows 11 signifies a commitment to delivering a seamless and efficient collaboration experience for users across the board.