Microsoft is preparing to remove its built-in Microsoft Teams client in Windows 11 nearly two years after the integration was first announced. The Chat functionality will be replaced with the more flexible free version of Microsoft Teams that’s also available as an app for Windows 10. Microsoft announced the changes in a new Windows 11 test build this week.
“Starting with his build, Chat is now Microsoft Teams – Free,” says Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager at Microsoft, in a blog post. “Microsoft Teams – Free is pinned by default to the taskbar and can be unpinned like other apps on the taskbar.” We asked Microsoft to comment on why Chat is being removed, but the company hasn’t responded in time for publication.
The original Teams integration in Windows 11, named Chat, was deeply woven into the operating system. Enabled by default, the Chat app was pinned to the taskbar and you’d have to dig into Settings to remove it. Chat offers consumers a way to use Microsoft Teams to contact friends and family. It was weirdly limited to just consumers though, making it useless for the vast majority of Microsoft Teams users that use the work version of the app. Windows 11 users could also end up with two confusing versions of Teams installed to handle work calls and personal ones.
The Chat icon on the Windows 11 taskbar Image: Microsoft
Up until today, Microsoft had been continually adding new features to Chat inside Windows 11, with improved video calling features in October and Discord-like communities and an AI art tool earlier this month. The built-in 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’s rolling out to businesses at the moment.
Microsoft’s decision to axe Windows 11’s built-in Teams client comes just days after the company announced plans to end support for Cortana on Windows 11 later this year. It’s nearly a new financial year for Microsoft and the company is clearly focusing its efforts elsewhere on new projects for Windows, including its AI-powered Windows Copilot tool.
Windows chief Panos Panay previously hinted at the importance of AI for Windows, claiming at CES earlier this year that “AI is going to reinvent how you do everything on Windows.” AI will undoubtedly play a big role in the next major version of Windows, too.
The changes to Teams also comes just months after Microsoft reportedly agree to stop bundling Teams with Office. The Financial Times reported in April that Microsoft will stop forcing Office customers to have to install Teams on their devices, in a move designed to appease EU regulators. Microsoft is trying to avoid a formal antitrust probe by the European Commission, after rival Slack filed a complaint in 2020 about Microsoft’s bundling of Teams.