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Teams Linux Client Replaced by new Teams PWA (Progressive Web App) Client
Microsoft plans to retire the Linux desktop client for Teams in early December. Customers heard the news in late August in Microsoft 365 message center notification MC412007. Apart from MC412007, Microsoft hasn’t posted any other news on the topic, and due to the lack of Linux clients in my tenant, I didn’t receive the notification, which accounts for the lack of coverage here to date. Some Linux-centric websites picked the news up and reported Microsoft’s bald statement that:
“We will be retiring the Microsoft Teams desktop client on Linux in 90 days (early December), which is currently available in public preview. All users on the Microsoft Teams Linux desktop client will have to transition to the web or PWA version, which is where we will continue to invest our development resources.”
Microsoft originally announced the Teams Linux client in December 2019 as the “first Microsoft 365 app coming to Linux desktops.” The client is distributed in .deb and .rpm formats. Soon after launch, users realized that the Linux client lacked parity with the other Teams desktop clients in areas like background effects for meetings and calls. Questions flowed and Microsoft pushed through updates at a steady pace, but the Teams Linux client never attained feature parity.
PWA on Edge or Chrome
The announcement also says:
“Teams PWA is an evolution of our Linux web experience – it offers the “best of the web with key functionalities of client”: zero-install, lightweight, and has a rich set of features. For example, the PWA version supports features such as:
- Background blur and custom backgrounds
- Reactions and raise hand in meetings
- Large gallery and together mode
PWA also provides desktop-like app features such as:
- System notifications for chat and channel Dock icon with respective controls
- Application auto-start
- Easy access to system app permissions”
Microsoft hasn’t made a Teams progressive web app (PWA) available yet. The announcement implies that the PWA will be available to customers before Microsoft retires the Linux desktop app.
Given that Firefox doesn’t support progressive web apps, Linux users will have to use Chrome or Edge to run the Teams PWA. Firefox users can continue using the existing Teams browser client. Given that the Teams PWA will run on Edge and Chrome, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why it should not also support Windows and macOS desktops too.
November Update: PWA Available
Update November 7, 2022: Microsoft announced that the PWA client is available for Linux. In fact, the PWA is now available for all platforms. For example, to create the PWA on Windows, I ran the Teams browser client (teams.microsoft.com) and used the Edge apps option to install this site as an app (Figure 2).
After the Teams PWA installs, you have options to pin the new app to the taskbar, start menu, as a desktop shortcut, and to start the app when the PC starts (Figure 3).
Few Will Mourn the Passing of the Teams Linux Client
Based on the comments from some Linux users, it doesn’t seem like the demise of the Linux desktop app will be a sorrowful occasion. The Linux client is buggy and lacks some of the features available in the Windows and macOS desktop clients, a factor that people soon realized after installing the client.
I know several people who installed the Teams Linux client out of interest, but none who use it for production purposes. This appears to match what others have experienced and it probably won’t be a great problem for anyone to move to a PWA.
From a Microsoft perspective, canning the Teams Linux client makes sense too. I’m sure that they have development and support engineers dedicated to the Linux client that can be used elsewhere.
On to Teams 2.0
In one sense, the retirement of the Teams Linux client is regrettable. However, it’s also understandable. If the client hasn’t gained traction with its potential user base and a better (PWA) alternative is available, then it makes sense for Microsoft to move resources into where they can make the best long-term impact. This is especially so in light of the fact that Microsoft is in the middle of transitioning the Teams client from the 1.0 architecture to a new version with promises of better performance, increased functionality, and lower memory footprint. I suspect that the need for engineering resources to fulfil the commitments made for Teams 2.0 contributed to the decision. In any case, putting a poorly used and buggy client out of its misery seems like the right thing to do.
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