The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has led to software vendors re-appraising their collaboration software suites as more people are working from home. Some vendors had new releases on track anyway while others have rushed to add extra features and improved usability. The big change in user behaviour of course is that video conferencing is now seen as a ‘must-have’ essential requirement.
The big winner in video has been Zoom which started as a stand-alone conferencing tool. However with chat already added and more collaboration features in the pipeline it will move more into the business collaboration area rather than as a consumer only solution; or is it a blurring in the lines between consumer and business requirements. What drove the rise of Zoom was the free offering that was ideal for the quick ‘family get-togethers’ and also allowed up to 100 participants.
Microsoft Teams has also added many new clients to it’s platform. It has had to play catch up on the video side but its strengths are on the integration with the existing key Microsoft collaboration products, Outlook and Office.
Slack has also been through the new-release cycle in the last few months, but more of a polishing of its UI. Native video is not available but integrations with leading products are available including Jitsi – the open source video conferencing solution that works over webRTC. Slack’s original aim was to end a reliance on email as the primary means of communication which although the principle has many supporters the reality is that email still rules the roost and is likely to continue for a long time yet.
What of Google? They have had to move fast to update consumer GMail and business G-suite in order to stay on-par with Microsoft Teams. (See https://www.theregister.com/2020/07/23/g_suite_javier_soltero_interview/) Chat and improved video (Google Meet) are now integrated closely into Gmail and Google Docs. The Google approach now appears to be to integrate all collaboration features into a single user experience rather than having discrete components – including the office applications.
Integration and hooks between components appears to be the current goal for the collaboration specialists which ideally brings ease of use.
Ultimately, collaboration is all about one-2-one and one-2-many communications, enabling the transfer and storage of information in the form of files or unstructured text (and increasingly voice and video).
As a player in this market how does Micro Focus respond? There are still strong offerings on the email and file management side in the form of GroupWise and Filr. Messenger is still available but Teamworks – a chat and group talk solution – is now the preferred way forward. There is also available the shared document editing facility now available with Teamworks and Filr which is a licenced version of Collabora’s online LibreOffice technology. A gap in the armoury is a video offering at this time. What about Vibe - doesn't this 'hidden gem' have a role to play in future?
One of the many challenges facing the Micro Focus development team is how to present and/or integrate all these components so that users can move seamlessly from one method of communcation to another while keeping the data streams from the different components available and safe.