A tablet with a news app open sitting on a table atop a pile of newspapers
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In all the talk about productivity and productivity suites there is always two contenders for the top spot, Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite. However, as we have seen in the past, there is another multifunctional agile, comprehensive suite that has been developing in the background, costs a fraction of the price of other of the two major players, and it steadily gaining traction in the enterprise in Europe, Asia and the US. It has also just received a major upgrade that builds on its artificial intelligence capabilities to make it easier and more efficient to use.

Zoho Office Suite, which includes four sophisticated, cloud-based productivity software applications—Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show, and Zoho Notebook, now comes with Zia, Zoho's AI-powered assistant, Apple TV and Android Integrations, proprietary data cleansing, and smart note card functionality.

With all this new functionality under the hood, the Zoho Office Suite gives enterprises contextual collaboration across the entire business and at a prices that no other vendor can offer. Zoho Office Suite is available to single users for free, $3 per user per month for SMEs, and $6 per user per month for enterprises.

Even better for users, applications in the Zoho Office Suite are not only integrated among themselves, but also with Zoho’s communications tools (Zoho Mail and Cliq, a cross-platform messaging app), Zoho’s collaboration tools (Zoho Projects and Zoho Connect, a private social network for business), as well as Zoho’s several other business applications.

At the moment, Zoho claims to have 40 million users globally and a U.S. headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif. although it has origins and a major presence in Chennai, India. In interview with CMSWire in 2017, Zoho CEO and co-founder Sridhar Vembu, outlined an ambitious plan to turn Zoho’s collection of apps into a “operating system for business”. In the past two years it has continued to build that system and this is just the latest step in that development. There will be more from Zoho in the coming months so watch out for it.

Slack Makes  Integration Content More Effective

And this brings it back to San Francisco-based Slack. In fact, most of what’s happening in the digital workplace comes back to Slack at the moment as it builds out its functionality and its overall business appeal in the run-up to its IPO.  Slack, of course, is not a productivity suite but one of the business plans for Slack is to develop it in such a way that it can integrate with just about any productivity tool in the workplace.

Its goal at the moment is to attract as many third-party developers as they can and to make it possible to integrate with as many other apps as possible. While it can already integrate with hundreds of apps it needs to do more to make those apps useful. With that in mind it has just released Block Kit.

Block Kit is a framework of message components that make it easy to control how information is presented in a Slack integration. Slack also unveiled Block Kit Builder, a way to prototype what apps will look like in Slack and change code on the fly to quickly switch up how the tool behaves. There are five new "blocks" that developers can now start using to make content easier to access:

  • Section - Simply a container for text. A section block can be coupled with an inline action or image.
  • Context - A space to add helpful metadata or a description.
  • Image - An image container, including a caption.
  • Divider - A simple separator that makes messages more readable.
  • Actions - Interactive components for your app’s call to action; includes buttons, six drop-down menu types, and a datepicker.

Bear Douglas, head of developer relations at Slack, said that the Block Kit will lead to apps that are “more beautiful, more visually engaging, and — most importantly — show users the full range of possibilities of things you can do with apps.

Google Docs’ New API

Speaking of integration, Google has announced the general availability of a new API for Google Docs that will allow developers to automate many of the tasks that users typically do manually in the company’s online office suite. The API has been in developer preview since last April’s Google Cloud Next 2018 and is now available to all developers. 

There are three principle new capabilities according to a blog post about the API:

  • Create new documents from templates in Zapier - Zapier is an automation tool that helps you create custom workflows. With its Docs API integration, you can create, collaborate, and share dynamic documents using Docs templates with just a few workflow rules.
  • Automate workflows like Netflix - Netflix used the Docs API to automate their engineering response processes so they can quickly gather data and automate documentation.
  • Import Google Docs like Final Draft - Final Draft, a premier editing tool for screenplays, is integrating the Docs API to help its customers quickly upload scripts and screenplays from Docs into Final Draft software.

Docs API makes it easy to automate common word processing tasks, with the added perk of real-time editing and collaboration that’s already built into the Docs app. With this addition, G Suite now has a complete set of APIs for Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Oblong Creates a Rumpus

Meanwhile, LA-based Oblong, collaborative tech company, has set up a new solution for virtual teamwork called Rumpus.

Rumpus is a collaborative screen sharing application that lets virtual teams share their screens at the same time. High fidelity content is accessible without interruption, making meetings more efficient and productive. Multiple cursors help teams explore content and express interest, and web conferencing integration makes joining meetings easy.

It lets everyone share their screen, even at the same time, so you can contribute to the meeting without interrupting it.  It lets you show exactly what interests you, while letting you see what interests others. It lets you give and receive feedback instantly.  And it does it all at high fidelity.

Rumpus has only just been released so its early days in its development. Oblong was founded in 2006. Its core technology platform is called g-speak, which enables applications to be developed that run across multiple screens and multiple devices. More on this soon.

Qumu Upgrades Video Management Platform

Finally, this week, Minneapolis-based Qumu, which develops an enterprise, has released its next generation enterprise video technology platform. The new platform uses built-in intelligence to autonomously manage all inbound and outbound corporate video streams

The announcement comes weeks after Qumu made its first-ever appearance in the Aragon Research Globe for Web and Video Conferencing as a new contender in that space. Typically dominated by firms like Microsoft, Zoom, Cisco and Adobe, the web and video conferencing market is quickly expanding to include companies like Qumu, who can unite fragmented technologies such as webcasting, content management and video delivery under a single platform.

With the recent platform improvements and partnerships, Qumu is now able to provide Global 2000 customers with a holistic technology solution for capturing, managing and delivering corporate video—regardless of device, bandwidth constraints or location. “