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Microsoft Teams for Linux launches in public preview

The release of Microsoft Teams for Linux is welcome news to software engineers, who have been pressuring Microsoft to support the open source operating system for years.

Microsoft has released in public preview a Microsoft Teams desktop client for Linux.

The move is aimed at boosting Teams adoption among software developers, who often prefer working in Linux. The lack of support for the open source operating system has made it harder for Microsoft to compete with Slack, which has supported Linux for years. 

"A lot of the companies that we've researched who are running both Slack and Teams are doing so because their application developers use Slack," said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. The new Microsoft Teams for Linux client could convince more organizations to go all-in on Teams. 

The Linux client supports Teams' core capabilities, including calling and video meetings. But it comes with certain limitations. For example, it doesn't offer users as many in-meeting controls as the Windows and Mac clients for Teams do.

Nevertheless, releasing Microsoft Teams for Linux represents a significant milestone for the company. Microsoft said Teams was "the first Microsoft 365 app that is coming to Linux desktops." The company declined to say whether it would launch additional apps on Linux.

Microsoft has long been criticized for not playing nice with competing operating systems. The U.S. government sued the company in the late 1990s over its bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows, ending in a settlement. More recently, Microsoft has moved toward becoming more of an open ecosystem.

Users have been pushing Microsoft to release Teams on Linux since the app's launch. A 2016 post requesting the Linux client has received more than 10,000 likes and 1,800 comments on the vendor's user feedback website. Microsoft had put the issue on the back burner before reviving it earlier this year.

Many users commented on the website to say that they would stick with Slack until Microsoft launched a Linux client. Those kinds of declarations likely helped convince Microsoft that supporting Linux would be worthwhile. The company has made competing with Slack a priority.

Microsoft seemingly waited to reveal user numbers for Teams until it had more users than Slack. The company even went so far as to produce a bar graph comparing the growth of Teams and Slack in its announcement. Teams now has 20 million daily active users to Slack's 13 million.

Slack has responded by repeatedly highlighting that 70% of its 50 largest customers subscribe to Office 365, which includes Teams. Slack has also argued that users are more engaged with its app, although a lack of apples-to-apples statistics makes it impossible to compare the two. 

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