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New Teams Client Slated to Become Default Client in September 2023
On the last day of the Microsoft FY23 fiscal year, the Teams development group released message center notification MC617066 to inform Microsoft 365 tenants about their plans to deploy the new Teams client (Teams 2.1) into production. This is a big thing given that Teams has over 300 million monthly active users, many of whom have noticed that the Teams classic client can be a bit of a performance pig at times. The great hope is that the Teams 2.1 client will require less memory and consume fewer system resources.
The new Teams client arrived in preview at the end of March 2023. At the time, Teams 2.1 lacked many of the features available in the classic client, including some annoying deficiencies such as the inability to use @ mentions in channel conversations. Since then, Microsoft says that they have added “features such as third-party, line-of-business (LOB) applications, breakout rooms, and new scenarios such as multi-tenant organization (MTO) to the new Teams experience.”
There’s no doubt that Teams 2.1 (Figure 1) has progressed steadily since March. It’s hard to quantify performance and compare it against the classic client because a feature gap still exists. Nevertheless, things look positive. Some aspects of the new client, such as its handling of notifications and switching in a multi-tenant work environment, are impressive. Despite the advent of Teams shared channels over a year ago, guest accounts are still extremely useful and are heavily used. I use guest accounts all the time, and appreciate the work Microsoft has done here.
Unlike Outlook, where Microsoft says that only the Outlook Monarch client will work with Microsoft 365 Copilot, both the Teams classic and 2.1 client will support Copilot. This is interesting because it indicates that Microsoft believes that the transition from Teams classic to 2.1 will take some time. Of course, moving people to a new version of Outlook for Windows takes forever, but the insistence on Monarch might be just Microsoft’s way of cajoling people who want to use Copilot to take the leap to embrace Monarch.
Microsoft’s Strategy for Teams 2.1
The Teams update policy assigned to a user account controls when they see the toggle to allow them to switch to the Teams 2.1 client (Figure 2).
Microsoft says that starting in mid to late July 2023, they will display the toggle when the UseNewTeamsClient setting for the update policy assigned to an account is set to “Microsoft controlled.” They’ll start to display the toggle with accounts that have Microsoft 365 Business plans and then move to accounts with enterprise plans like Office 365 E3 or E5 in early August (for more details, see the rollout schedule page).
The switchover starts in earnest in September 2023 when Microsoft makes Teams 2.1 the default client. Once again, this will happen first for accounts with Business plans before progressing to enterprise accounts. Those using Teams preview will see Teams 2.1 become the default in mid-August 2023.
At this point, the Microsoft 365 apps update channel starts to exert an influence and decision about which Teams client is the default is then dictated by a combination of the license type and the update channel. Here’s how the update channel affects deployment:
- Targeted Release Channel: Mid-August 2023
- Current Channel: Early October 2023 (this is the date indicated in Microsoft 365 roadmap item122540 covering the new Teams client)
- Monthly Enterprise Channel: Early November 2023
- Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel (Preview): Early October 2023
- Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel, Semi-annual Extended, LTSC, and remaining channels: Mid-January 2024
Bulk deployment within a tenant will be possible.
If tenants need to keep using the classic Teams client, they can configure their Teams update policy so that UseNewTeamsClient is set to use the classic Teams client as the default.
Teams 2.1 to be Everywhere in 2024
If all goes well, it seems likely that the Teams 2.1 client will be in the majority in early 2024. Of course, the stresses of software development and the capricious nature of bugs can impact the best-laid plans. Perhaps mid-2024 is a more realistic date. Time will tell.
So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant.