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Digital Workplace Newsbyte: Microsoft To Offer Slack-killer Free? Dropbox IPO Warns About Collaboration Market

7 minute read
David Roe avatar
This week's round-up of workplace news includes signs Microsoft could be offering a Slack-killer free, signs of growth in the collaboration space and more.

It has been on the cards since the very beginning in 2016, but recent reports suggest that Microsoft may be getting ready to launch a freemium version of its Slack competitor Microsoft Teams. The launch of a freemium version would certainly make sense. When Microsoft released Teams in 2016, all it released were paid versions, which must have been a relief to Slack, as it meant that no matter what Microsoft offered, Slack was always going to be cheaper.

However, that could be changing. According to reports in Petri, the latest test versions of Microsoft Teams contain multiple references to a freemium version with the usual options to upgrade to the paid versions. Microsoft however, has revealed no details at all about the new tier, but the fact that it is said to be testing it already would should mean that it will go into at least a public beta sometime this year, possibly even in time for its annual Ignite conference.

How the freemium version(s) will differ from a paid version is also a mystery, but it is likely that, like the freemium version for other social networks, it will be limited in collaboration functionality and numbers until the customer decides to go to a paid version. For small and micro enterprises this will probably be good news, as the basic communication functions are available in most freemium networks and means that they won’t really, ever have to pay for it unless there are specific paid features that they need.

One other thing to watch out for is how this will relate to Office 365. Many Microsoft applications and functionality requires an Office 365 account. If that is the case here, it means that it will be only freemium in name. Would Microsoft do that? It seems likely, that the reason for introducing a free version in the first place is to catch people and companies that are not already attached to the Office 365 environment by offering them something for free then getting them to sign up when they need more.

Even still, for Slack this should be a bit worrying.  Globally, Microsoft clearly has a lot more to offer than Slack and by offering Teams for free, it is undercutting Slack in the micro- and small enterprise space. Office 365 has also arguably a lot more to offer than Google’s G Suite, so offering organizations a cheap way into the Microsoft fold is a smart move.

Dropbox’s IPO Warning

This week also saw San Francisco-based Dropbox file to go public. There were no surprises here again. Dropbox’s IPO has been a talking point for years with the discussion focusing on when rather than if was going to do it. On Feb.23 the file sync and sharing service finally took the plunge and announced that it was looking to raise $500 million. The company will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol DBX. Dropbox, which was valued at $10 billion in its 2014 funding round, would be one of the biggest U.S. enterprise technology companies to file in recent times.

The filing also provided an insight into the finances of the company. It shows that the company's revenue increased more than 30 percent last year to $1.1 billion, up from $845 million in 2016 and now has 500 million registered users. In the same period, the company's net loss shrank to $112 million from $210 million. A letter from Dropbox co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi included in Friday's filing pointed to future directions for the company.  "Imagine if every minute at work were well spent — if we could focus and spend our time on the things that matter. This is the world we want to live in," it read.

There are some other interesting insights in the filing, including risk factors. Among them are problems that could apply across the entire collaboration space: “Our future growth could be harmed if we fail to attract new users or convert registered users to paying users,” the filing reads. “We must continually add new users to grow our business beyond our current user base and to replace users who choose not to continue to use our platform. Historically, our revenue has been driven by our self-serve model, and we generate more than 90% of our revenue from self-serve channels. Any decrease in user satisfaction with our products or support could harm our brand, word-of-mouth referrals, and ability to grow.”

It also warns about the future growth of the collaboration market. The filing continues, “Our revenue growth rate has declined in recent periods and may continue to slow in the future,” it reads. “We have experienced significant revenue growth in prior periods. However, our rates of revenue growth are slowing and may continue to slow in the future. Many factors may contribute to declines in our growth rates, including, higher market penetration, increased competition, slowing demand for our platform, a decrease in the growth of the overall content collaboration market, a failure by us to continue capitalizing on growth opportunities and the maturation of our business."

Other collaboration vendors should take note. The unveiling of the filing last week takes the company a step closer to IPO. The actual launch is likely to take place sometime late next month.

Verint Adds Workforce Capabilities

Another collaboration news item, Melville, N.Y.-based Verint has announced the release of new workforce engagement capabilities for simplifying, modernizing and automating back-office operations. Issues with back-office processing such as data entry errors, workflow bottlenecks and repetitive manual processes account for a significant portion of customer contact volume and customer dissatisfaction. As a result, organizations need to transform their back offices with new tools and business practices.

Learning Opportunities

The new additions include work allocation automation, which assigns work, tracks employee progress and identifies potential bottlenecks or barriers to accurate, timely completion. Back-office managers can automatically capture, organize, prioritize, assign and track work based on pre-defined rules, with the status of work housed in a single repository, regardless of processing system complaints.

Verint’s robotic process automation also comes with new capabilities created to unlock productivity across the back office. As software robots automatically handle the routine, mundane work, employees can focus on tasks that require human decision-making and creativity.

Postman Releases v6.0

Also, this week, San Francisco-based Postman announced the release of Postman 6.0 last week, which includes the introduction of Workspaces, a new development resource that significantly changes and improves organization and collaboration within the Postman API dev environment. Designed so developers can better organize their API work — and speed up and improve the development process — by gathering the appropriate team members and API resources within a targeted Workspace.

Postman has exploded over the past year, closing 2017 with nearly five million installed instances deployed at more than 100,000 companies worldwide.  Its first paid plan, Postman Pro, was announced in December 2016, and grew substantially in 2017.

Rubrik Readies For IPO?

Finally, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Rubrik has announced that John W. Thompson the current Microsoft chairman has joined the company’s Board of Directors. Thompson has a long list of corporate accomplishments under his belt already as a former CEO at Virtual Instruments, a vice-president at IBM and the former CEO of security specialist Symantec.

The company has also announced that it has appointed Murray Demo as the company’s CFO. Prior to Rubrik, Demo was CFO at Atlassian, where he led the company through a successful IPO and subsequent quarters as a public company. Demo brings decades of experience to Rubrik and has previously served as CFO at Adobe, LiveOps and Dolby Laboratories.

Last year, Rubrik Chief Executive Officer Bipul Sinha said during an interview that he expects to take the company public “probably in two or three years.” It looks like he wasn’t joking. The fact that it claims to have hit $300 million in annual revenues would also make the chances of an IPO better, but at what stage the company goes this route, if at all, is anyone’s guess. A company to watch.

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