Microsoft launched its Kaizala group-messaging service in 2018. In subsequent months, officials positioned the service as being specifically for frontline workers. Since then, I’ve heard from a number of customers who were confused about the differences between Kaizala and Teams. It looks like Microsoft has heard — and is now heeding — similar feedback.
On August 26, Microsoft officials told partners that they are planning to retire Kaizala as of August 31, 2023. After that date, support for and access to the service will be discontinued. Until then, existing Kaizala customers will be able to continue using the service. But as of today, August 26, no new tenants will be onboarded onto Kaizala; instead, they will be onboarded directly to Teams for chat, meetings and calling.
According to a note Microsoft has shared with Microsoft 365 partners, “many Kaizala users have Office 365 or Microsoft 365 licenses and haven’t fully enabled them.” Microsoft is positioning the discontinuation of Kaizala as “an opportunity for our partners to move Kaizala users to Teams.” To ease the transition, Microsoft will make Teams “Exploratory” licenses available to Azure Active Directory (AAD) customers of Kaizala so they can check out Teams for free for a year.
Kaizala began as a Microsoft Garage incubation project back in 2017. It started out as a productivity tool specifically for the Indian market.
Since then, Microsoft has been broadening its distribution. In 2019, officials said they planned to integrate Kaizala into Teams while adding a substantial number of new features to the group-messaging product. In 2020, Microsoft announced the integration of Kaizala into Teams was delayed and that the standalone Kaizala product would continue to be available as part of some Office 365 and Microsoft 365 plans.
Microsoft still has other chat and messaging services beyond Teams, including Skype and GroupMe. Microsoft officials continue to maintain publicly that these two products are not going to be superseded by Teams, as they have their own distinct uses and markets. But more than a few Microsoft watchers are wondering whether this will continue to be the case.