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PHOTO: Les Anderson

HP and its attempt to reinvent itself is a story that just keeps giving. Its strategy since the ill-advised acquisition of Autonomy some years back for $11.1 billion has been confusing, especially now that the case is going through the High Court in London.

The tale took a new twist at the end of last month when the United States formally requested the extradition of Michael Lynch, the British tech billionaire who sold the company to HP, to face charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

While this was going on, Xerox made a $33.5 billion hostile takeover bid for HP, possibly in the hope that the ongoing Autonomy case, and the financial uncertainty it has brought, would encourage shareholders to take a serious look at the bid.

However, HP rejected the offer and decided to go it alone, which resulted in angry reactions from HP and Xerox investors. Activist investor Carl Icahn, who owns about 10.85% of outstanding shares of Xerox and 4.24% of outstanding shares of HP, couldn’t restrain himself. In an open letter to HP shareholders this week Icahn wrote: “I cannot believe that the recalcitrance of HP’s board is driven by any real confidence in its standalone restructuring plan, which the market, shareholders and analysts met with extreme indifference and which seems to amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Icahn urged the shareholders to appeal to the board to further explore the possibility of an acquisition by Xerox. He suggested that HP’s executives have been motivated by selfish reasons in rejecting the takeover bid. “Because I see no other plausible explanation for HP to refuse to engage in customary mutual due diligence, I am left to wonder whether this is simply a delay tactic aimed at attempting to preserve the lucrative positions of the CEO and members of the board, which they fear might be affected if a combination does take place,” Icahn wrote.

He also insisted that he would force the deal through eventually, and Icahn doesn’t mix words. While this kind of financial daring-do are a long way away from the digital workplace, if the deal goes through, it will result in the creation of a major player with a firm grip not only on the PC and printer market, but also on one of the most important elements in the digital workplace, notably capture.

The digital workplace runs on data. And capturing the data into the system without errors is key to informing work processes and digital insights. Keep in mind that AI also depends on vast amounts of accurate data to make it effective and HP has a long history of providing this kind of technology, as does Xerox.

HP has also been cutting thousands of jobs to save $1 billion per year, even if it is still doing well in the PC market driven by the release of Windows 10. It is now second only to Lenovo in the global market. 

This story is far from over. While it's unclear where things will go, it is pretty certain that whatever happens is going to happen soon.

Slack Reassures Investors About Microsoft Teams

There's more financial news impacting the digital workplace. Earlier this week, Slack reported a second-quarter net loss of $87.7 million, or 16 cents per share, better than generally expected, on revenues of $168.7 million. However, its share price dropped by almost 6% at one point as the workplace collaboration company forecasted revenue of $172 million to $174 million in the fourth quarter, compared to the $172.9 million average analyst estimate.

However, the real action was not in the financial results, but in the earnings call. CEO Stewart Butterfield, in an effort to reassure investors, tackled the impact Teams, Microsoft’s collaboration tool, is having on Slack's business and why it is not a cause for worry. 

In doing so he confirmed a lot of the speculation about Slack and how it operates in the enterprise. He pointed out that, as many suspected, Teams and Slack are not really the same and that the two products have different goals. Teams services Office 365 environments, while Slack is a standalone collaboration service.

Addressing recent claims that Teams now has 20 million daily active users, he pointed out that this wasn’t a result of organic growth, it was a result of harvesting customers who previously used Skype for Business, which has been rebranded into Teams. "Just look at the weak engagement numbers that Microsoft themselves report about Teams and the much deeper level of engagement you see among Slack users," he said.

While Butterfield didn’t offer an updated figure on how many users Slack has, he did note that it has 50 paid customers spending over $1 million annually and that 70% of those customers were also Office 365 users. He added, “Shared channels went into general availability in mid-September after an extensive beta period. Since then the rate of adoption has accelerated. This is our most exciting product release in collaboration since we first launched Slack.”

The company has also announced the appointment of Mike McNamara to the company’s board of directors, effective immediately. Most recently, McNamara served as the CEO of Flex Ltd. (formerly Flextronics Ltd), a leading international product development firm. 

Google Assistant Works With G Suite

Google this week pushed Google Assistant support for G Suite Business tools into beta. In the new beta, the Google Assistant will respond to voice commands for certain Google Calendar and Gmail functions and:

  • Let you know when your next meeting is.
  • Create, cancel or reschedule a Calendar event.
  • Send a note to event attendees via email.
  • Send an email.
  • Dial into a meeting.

This beta also introduces a feature which allows the use of voice commands to control the Asus Hangouts Meet hardware kit, making the meeting experience more seamless (the “Test Product” or Hangouts Meet hardware kit with the Google Assistant). For example, it claims you can say “OK Google, join the meeting” to connect to a video meeting in seconds. The Test Product is currently supported for Asus Hangouts Meet hardware kits only.

It was inevitable that Google would push Assistant in this direction. At the beginning of 2018, Amazon announced it was pushing Alexa into the workplace and there have been other similar moves too. The advantage for Google is that G Suite already has a large workplace audience, so pushing Assistant deeper won’t be too difficult. Click here to sign up to the beta.

Alfresco Adds New Security to Digital Business Platform

Elsewhere, Alfresco announced new governance capabilities for its Alfresco Digital Business Platform. The new capabilities enable organizations and governments to protect customer information and meet regulatory requirements through automated records management and artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted information governance. There are several additions, but the main ones include:

  • Federation Services: Enables federated search and ‘manage in place’ records management, a key need for customers wanting to avoid the cost and time of migrating disparate content to a central system. Users can search, view and manage content from Alfresco and non-Alfresco repositories (SharePoint, Box, Open Text, etc.).
  • Legal Hold: Alfresco uses AI to handle the volume of structured and unstructured data that needs to be scanned and evaluated. This accelerates the identification, hold and control of legally sensitive information in a way that was previously impossible through manual work.
  • Desktop Synchronization: Alfresco has introduced this to ensure that all documents, even those stored on a desktop, retain a predefined level of governance as though the user was viewing the document directly in the content repository.

The introduction of the new capabilities is timely. Last year the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced and at the beginning of next month the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) comes into effect. Managing exponential increases in regulatory changes has led to an upsurge in compliance risk, and the accompanying rise of regulatory fees (and fines) are some of the many significant, ongoing concerns for executives across all organizations — no industry or government is immune.

The Alfresco Digital Business Platform offers automated records management and AI-assisted information governance for compliance officers and data caretakers. The new additions are designed to minimize risk and protect the integrity of electronically stored information (ESI) across multiple, different and disparate repositories, and take this level of control all the way to a users' desktop.

Meanwhile, Alfresco announced its acquisition of Pernexas, a provider of connectors for integrating the Alfresco Digital Business Platform with SAP, thus strengthening its position in the enterprise content management category. By incorporating the Pernexas connexas product line into the Alfresco suite, customers will be able to natively integrate their SAP ERP systems with Aflresco’s Digital Business Platform using an SAP-certified connector. Financial terms of the deal were not provided.

Loom Raises $30 Million

Finally, this week, Loom, which develops a work communication tool that helps you get your message across through instantly shareable video, announced it has raised $30 million in funding. In a blog post about the round, the company stated its priority is to double down on the foundations of Loom. In terms of product development, that means investing in making sure Loom is everywhere people work with an iOS app, and then focusing on Android soon after.

It also plans to integrate with more of the tools used every day to get work done, making sure Loom fits in seamlessly with existing workflows.

“The next phase for Loom sees us building for companies with an emphasis on security and collaboration. We’re currently working on centralized storage and curation, richer insights and reporting, custom branding and enhanced administrative controls. We’re rolling out early access soon and plan to launch publicly in early 2020,” according to the blog.