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Microsoft Teams mobile app matures, but interoperability lags

Microsoft has been quickly building out the capabilities of the Microsoft Teams mobile app, but businesses could find it clunky to use in conjunction with Skype for Business.

Microsoft has been building out the capabilities of the Microsoft Teams mobile app in recent months, adding features more advanced than those traditionally supported by unified communications mobility clients. Nevertheless, the vendor has more work to do to catch up with rival Cisco and to provide a seamless mobile experience to businesses.

Microsoft is on par with the meeting features in Cisco Webex Teams mobile, but Cisco can give users a more seamless experience for scheduling and joining meetings from their mobile phones. That's because Cisco Webex Teams and Cisco Webex rely on the same back-end cloud infrastructure, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.

"Cisco has been very, very mobile-centric for a long time, so I wouldn't expect Microsoft to have the same maturity in the mobile client," Kerravala said. Nevertheless, recent improvements to the Microsoft Teams mobile app are "a good start."

Microsoft users must juggle multiple UC mobile apps

Microsoft still has separate mobile apps for Teams and Skype for Business that require users to toggle between apps. Users can generally only access Teams meetings from within the Microsoft Teams mobile app, rather than from the mobile apps for Outlook or Skype for Business.

"The ability to schedule and join calls or meetings needs to be a lot more consistent," Kerravala said. "So, if I'm in Outlook mobile and I can start a Skype for Business meeting, I should be able to start a Teams meeting."

This gap in interoperability could cause headaches for businesses, as they attempt to migrate users from Skype for Business to Teams in keeping with Microsoft's directive that it will eventually phase out the former.

Microsoft is encouraging customers that use the cloud version of Skype for Business to begin using Teams simultaneously. The vendor recently gave users the ability to transfer contacts and groups from Skype for Business to Teams and made instant messaging exchanges between the two clients persistent for Teams users.

Recent features added to the Microsoft Teams mobile app included the ability to join audio and video meetings in Teams or request a meeting to call them on their mobile devices. Once in a meeting, the Microsoft Teams mobile app lets users upload files, share their screens and control presentations.

Team collaboration elevates mobile clients

Team collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and Slack are growing in popularity because they provide a single platform for communicating synchronously and asynchronously and for getting work done through third-party integrations.

That model for unified communications (UC) has made mobile clients even more significant, as vendors compete to deliver products that help users stay connected to colleagues and data whether they are in the office or working remotely, analysts said.

"The lines between communication, collaboration and conferencing are blurring," said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. "One of the biggest challenges for vendors is to create consistent experiences across various device types."

Traditional UC mobile apps were built primarily around calling and messaging, but mobile phones already provide those same capabilities over cellular networks. The mobile apps for Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams now give users access to nearly all of the files and collaboration tools available to them on the desktop.

"For all the manufacturers in this space, their singular goal should be [the following]: Can the user eradicate the term, 'I'll take care of that when I'm back in the office?'" Kerravala said.

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