Microsoft has made an unexpected decision to remove the built-in Microsoft Teams client from Windows 11, just two years after its initial integration was announced. The company revealed this change in a recent Windows 11 test build, stating that the Chat functionality will be replaced by the more versatile free version of Microsoft Teams, which is already available as a standalone app for Windows 10.
Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager at Microsoft, confirmed the transition in a blog post, stating, “Starting with this build, Chat is now Microsoft Teams – Free. Microsoft Teams – Free will be pinned to the taskbar by default and can be unpinned like other apps.” However, Microsoft has not provided an official explanation for the removal of the Chat feature at the time of writing.
The original integration of Teams, known as Chat, was deeply integrated into the Windows 11 operating system. By default, the Chat app was pinned to the taskbar, necessitating users to navigate through settings to remove it. While Chat enabled consumers to use Microsoft Teams for personal communication, it was limited solely to individual users, rendering it useless for the majority of Microsoft Teams users who rely on the work version of the app. Consequently, Windows 11 users often found themselves having to manage two separate versions of Teams, one for work-related calls and another for personal use, leading to confusion.
Until now, Microsoft had been continuously introducing new features to the Chat app within Windows 11. Recent additions included enhanced video calling capabilities in October and Discord-like communities, along with an AI art tool earlier this month. The integrated Chat functionality in Windows 11 was based on the Microsoft Teams 2.0 client, which served as the foundation for the new Microsoft Teams app that is currently being rolled out to businesses.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s decision to remove the built-in Teams client in Windows 11 closely follows its announcement to discontinue support for Cortana on the same operating system later this year. It appears that as the new financial year approaches, Microsoft is diverting its attention and resources to other projects for Windows, such as the development of the AI-powered Windows Copilot tool.
Windows chief Panos Panay has previously emphasized the significance of artificial intelligence (AI) in Windows, stating at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year that “AI is going to reinvent how you do everything on Windows.” It is expected that AI will play a prominent role in the forthcoming major version of Windows.
Furthermore, this alteration to Teams comes just a few months after reports claimed that Microsoft agreed to stop bundling Teams with Office applications. The Financial Times disclosed in April that Microsoft intends to cease the mandatory installation of Teams for Office customers, a move aimed at appeasing European Union (EU) regulators. Microsoft’s decision is an attempt to avoid a formal antitrust investigation by the European Commission, following a complaint lodged by rival company Slack in 2020 regarding Microsoft’s bundling practices.