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Launch of private channels in Microsoft Teams delayed

Microsoft Teams users will have to wait a bit longer for access to private channels. The vendor now says the long-awaited feature won't launch for all customers until early November.

Microsoft has once again delayed the launch of private channels in Microsoft Teams. The company now plans to complete its rollout of the feature in early November, after previously saying it would be done by the end of September.

Microsoft has been promising to enable private channels -- visible to only the members within them -- since 2017, and once slated the feature's launch for early 2018. The company is currently testing the feature in a limited beta.

The delay is likely to further irritate customers who have been clamoring for the feature for years. The lack of private channels in Teams has likely prevented some users from switching from Skype for Business to Teams, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research.

"I think this will be disappointing for Microsoft customers," Lazar said. "Given all of Microsoft's competitors support private conversations, Microsoft's lack of this capability certainly limits the usefulness of the product."

Microsoft mum on delay

The ability to set up private channels is the most-demanded feature on a Teams user feedback page, having amassed nearly 24,000 votes. Customers have commented more than 1,900 times on the post, often complaining that Teams needed to support the feature before their organization began using the app.

Microsoft finally announced a timeline for launching the feature in July, saying it would be available in the fall. The vendor later added private teams to its official roadmap, with a projected launch date of September.

Microsoft recently informed customers that private channels would now launch in late October, with every organization gaining access to the feature by early November, according to copies of the correspondence posted to the user feedback site.

Microsoft declined to comment on what prompted the delay. The company previously said that private channels have been difficult to engineer within Teams because of the app's links to the file-storage products in Office 365, such as SharePoint.

Currently, every "channel" within a "team" is visible to all members of that team. Private channels will let IT admins create secret groups within each team. For example, they could create a private channel for managers within the HR department's team.

Slack, a main rival of Microsoft Teams, has supported its version of private channels since 2015. Slack also lets organizations create private channels when messaging with external parties using the platform's shared channels feature.

"Microsoft has big plans for Teams and is aggressively targeting competitors like Slack," said Raúl Castañón-Martinez, analyst at 451 Research. "Lack of parity makes for a tough sell for Microsoft's channel partners looking to position Teams as the central communication and teamwork hub in Office 365."

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