man reading paper
PHOTO: Kevin Grieve

Two weeks ago, we predicted Slack would do something special to counter Microsoft's announcement that it was releasing a freemium version of its collaboration application Teams. A freemium Teams, after all, was a direct threat to Slack, whose appeal to date was largely due to the fact that it offers robust functionality in its free version.

Yesterday, Slack did that "something special." It announced it is buying Sydney-based Atlassian’s corporate chat software for an undisclosed sum that will be paid over the next three years. The result is Slack will get HipChat and Stride, giving Slack more customers that pay a monthly service fee. For its part, Atlassian gets a graceful exit from a market it hoped to break into, but which it never fully succeeded in doing even after the release of Stride last year. In a blog explaining the move, San Francisco-based Slack explained what will now happen with HipChat and Stride:

“As part of this partnership, Atlassian will discontinue Hipchat and Stride, and provide a migration path to Slack for all their customers. We are purchasing the IP for Hipchat Cloud and Stride to better support that path to Slack, while Atlassian is making a small, but symbolically important investment in our business,” the post read. “We’re also committing teams on both sides to build deeper and more powerful integrations between Slack and the Atlassian family of products, which includes adding new functionality to the existing Slack integrations for Jira Server and Cloud, Trello, and Bitbucket, and building out new integrations with Confluence and other products.”

It’s a bold move and one that will definitely give Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft something to fret about. In a refreshingly honest blog post, Altassian’s vice president of product management, Joff Redfern, simply said that, despite best efforts, Atlassian couldn’t break into the market:

“When we announced Stride in September 2017, we said, 'It’s time we rethink the way we’re working. We believe that teams can stay connected and keep moving forward.' We still believe that. We knew we were taking a risk by entering an already competitive real-time team communications market, but we were willing to do the hard work necessary to build a great product. And we believe we were on that path. Stride was a bold project, and we’re very proud of the product we created and the team that created it.”

However, he added, over the past year the market in real-time communications has changed pretty dramatically and it is getting harder to do business.

Stride was released less than a year ago aimed at competing with Slack and Microsoft in chat software. The idea was Atlassian would move its HipChat customers to a new product — Stride — that combined more of the features that Slack and Microsoft had been adding to their chat services. It even offered audio and video conferencing and project-tracking. However, the migration from HipChat to Stride never really took off, so Atlassian decided to move on, but to keep Stride alive. Redfern added:

 “We believe the best way forward for our customers and for Atlassian is to enter into strategic partnership with Slack and no longer offer our own real-time communications products.”

Atlassian is not entirely giving up on Stride, though, and will take a small stake in a startup that will be driven by both companies. It will also continue to manage the chat products and customers until the cloud services are shut down in February. Customers with HipChat installed on their own servers will be able to use it for an extra few months or as long as two years, depending on the version.

Will this be enough to compete with Microsoft? It’s far from clear. To date, Microsoft claims 200,000 organizations use Teams, while Slack claims 500,000 active organizations. Microsoft also claims to have 135 million Office 365 users, all of whom are being encouraged to take up Teams.

SharePoint 2019 Enters Public Preview

This was also a big week for Microsoft and its digital workplace products with the release of preview versions of Skype for Business, Exchange Server 2019 and, of course, SharePoint 2019. These were all scheduled releases, but it wasn’t clear what Microsoft was going to do with SharePoint although the community as we saw some months ago was unified in hoping for new hybrid capability.

SharePoint has many capabilities, so it will be a while before users start to get a real feel for SharePoint 2019. However, according to a blog post by Bill Baer, senior technical product manager for SharePoint, the new release has three areas of focus, notably:

  • Modern, familiar and intuitive user experiences based on SharePoint Online developments.
  • New ways to engage with content across browsers and devices.
  • Robust scale, security and compliance capabilities to meet growing demands.

You can take you pick as to what is most important here for you and your business uses. However, one thing worth noting is it will be very similar to the existing edition of SharePoint Online with a few on-premises tweaks. Baer explained: “Since we’re building SharePoint Server 2019 to be the same core platform for SharePoint Online as we did with SharePoint Server 2016, it should be no surprise that you see similarities between the two.  For you, SharePoint Server 2019 unlocks new, modern experiences for users, that are both intuitive and familiar.” 

Here are just four of the new additions/upgrades:

  • Pages: SharePoint Server 2019 includes updated, modern site pages allowing users  to share ideas using images, Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents, embed video content. You can create and publish modern pages quickly and easily, and use them on any device.
  • Libraries: SharePoint Server 2019 provides a better experience for document libraries that’s faster, more intuitive and responsive.
  • Mobile: SharePoint Server 2019 makes intranets more accessible on the go, more intelligent, and more personalized, based on activities across sites, the people you work with, the content you work on and the business processes you drive.
  • OneDrive For Business: SharePoint Server 2019 provides improved mobile access to content, people, and applications along with engaging and responsive experiences across devices and screen sizes.

This is only the start too. Baer promises that what Microsoft is sharing now is only a fraction of what will be in SharePoint 2019 when the final release emerges. If you want to see more, check out the reviewer's guide here (pdf). 

Google Upgrades G Suite Search

Google was also busy this week, unveiling a number of announcements for the digital workplace at its GoogleNext conference. In fact, there was so much there, we are going to do a separate round-up later. However, to start, one item worth noting is the improved search in Google Drive. This is absolutely fundamental to any digital workplace as the key to any productivity app is content and being able to find enterprise content. The new search will allow you to find:

  • Your top collaborators: Click on a person to search for files where you’ve collaborated together. 
  • Suggested search queries: Click on a term to search for it.
  • File types, edit history, priority item: Click to show files that match the highlighted criteria.

The new filters will help you find files more quickly without having to remember a specific title or keyword. Each category of suggested filter uses multi-variant machine learning to predict what you’re most likely to use, and the filters will improve over time. This is already available to Rapid Release users, with scheduled release coming on Aug. 8, 2018.

ESW Buys Bonzai

Finally, this week, Austin, Texas-based ESW Capital announced it has acquired Vancouver, British Columbia-based Bonzai Intranet, which will join the Skyvera portfolio of companies. Bonzai offers companies ready-to-deploy intranets for SharePoint and Office 365. By joining Skyvera, Bonzai becomes part of a portfolio of companies which includes more than 75 enterprise software companies in over 45 countries.

If the ESW name sounds familiar, it's for good reason. This is the same VC firm who acquired Jive Software in May 2017, DNN in August 2017 and Sitrion Business Solutions Products in October 2017. 

Given the interest in SharePoint with the emergence of SharePoint 2019, the buy is a smart one for ESW. Marisa Goldenberg, an ESW Capital executive with more than 20 years of experience has been appointed CEO of Bonzai Intranet.