Teams 2.0 Moves Away from Electron to Embrace Edge WebView2

Windows 11 Gets Teams 2 Consumer Version

During the Windows 11 event on June 24, Microsoft announced that they will integrate Teams in the operating system. Their blog post says “we’re excited to introduce Chat from Microsoft Teams integrated in the taskbar” noting that people can “connect through text, chat, voice or video with all of your personal contacts.” This sounds very much like the consumer version of Teams (aka Teams for your personal life) will be included in Windows 11.

The impression was confirmed when Rish Tandon, Corporate VP for Teams development, tweeted about the development, observing that Teams 2.0 (the next generation of Teams) will consume “half the memory of the same consumer account on Teams 1.0.” The consumer version spans a lot less functionality than the enterprise version of the Teams client, so it makes sense to target it initially before releasing to the 145 million plus enterprise users within Office 365.

Teams personal hasn’t been a huge success. Integrating the client into Windows 11 changes the landscape to allow Microsoft to consider phasing out the Skype consumer client in favor of Teams. Both products share many back-end media services components and it makes sense for Microsoft to replace Skype consumer gradually with a Teams 2.0 client available initially for Windows 11 and later for Windows 10 (and perhaps MacOS and Linux as supported by the Teams enterprise desktop client).

The Pursuit of a Lower Memory Footprint

By focusing on memory consumption, Tandon implicitly acknowledges the reputation Teams has of being a memory hog. Microsoft has tried many different techniques to reduce the memory demanded by the desktop client in the past. For Teams 2.0, it seems that the big step forward is to move away from Electron to use Microsoft’s Edge WebView2 control.

Edge WebView2 is already used by Outlook as part of Microsoft’s “One Outlook” project to enable better code sharing between clients, particularly in making OWA Powered Experiences (OPX), or components developed for OWA, available to Outlook desktop (the calendar room finder is an example of a shared component). In March, Microsoft started to install the runtime version of the control along with Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise (Office desktop) to ensure its availability on workstations. It makes sense for Microsoft to leverage OPX in Teams to reuse OWA components too – and maybe even create a full-blown Outlook integration within Teams.

Tight with Chromium

When I interviewed Rish Tandon last month, we discussed Electron and the way the Teams development group benefits from Microsoft’s involvement with Chromium through Edge. WebView2 uses Chromium as the rendering engine to display web content in apps, so this move deepens the involvement of Teams with Edge and gives Microsoft more control over the development components used for Teams.

Given the amount of features Microsoft has stuffed into Teams since its debut in 2017, being able to exercise precise control over memory is a big deal. Microsoft obviously anticipates that they will gain more control by using WebView2 instead of depending on Electron’s well-documented appetite for consuming as much memory as it can. Tandon also said that Teams has moved away from Angular to use ReactJS instead.

New Features and Predictability

Apart from reducing the memory footprint, Tandon says that Teams 2 will deliver features like support for multiple accounts and improve release predictability. My understanding of multiple accounts support is that you should be able to sign into a single instance of the Teams clients with accounts from multiple Microsoft 365 tenants and see all the teams you belong to across all tenants in a single pane. We’ll see. As to release predictability, the Teams developers ship new features at a fast pace but often miss the dates they publish to customers. It would be nice if Teams slipped dates for maybe 10% of their features instead of the 35%-40% we have seen in recent times.

Windows 11 and Teams 2

Teams consumer on Windows 11, a Teams 2 client
Figure 1: Chatting in Teams consumer on Windows 11

There doesn’t appear to be any dependency on Windows 11 for Teams 2. Given that enterprises will not be in a hurry to install Windows 11, it’s important that the Teams 2 client supports Windows 10 too. That is, after Microsoft sorts out all the inevitable bugs found during the transition to WebView2 and integrates all the enterprise functionality that won’t be in the version of Teams shipped with Windows 11. Given the work that needs to be done, I don’t anticipate seeing an enterprise client based on the Teams 2 architecture until sometime in 2022. But it would be nice to be surprised by earlier availability.

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