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Work Week | Minimum Office

| Work Chat Wars | Acquisitions | Augmented Reality | Elsewhere: Minimum Office |

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The Work Chat Wars

The Slack Social Network — Stratechery by Ben Thompson | Thompson equates Slack Connect with an ‘enterprise social network’ and he’s onto something. Now that Microsoft Teams use is exploding (as I discussed in Will Amazon Buy Slack?), Slack’s value proposition is being expanded from intra-company work chat to extra-company — and multi-company — communications and sharing. More like a business social network, according to Thompson:

Slack Connect is about more than chat: not only can you have multiple companies in one channel, you can also manage the flow of data between different organizations; to put it another way, while Microsoft is busy building an operating system in the cloud, Slack has decided to build the enterprise social network. Or, to put it in visual terms, Microsoft is a vertical company, and Slack has gone fully horizontal:

source: Ben Thompson

This doubles down on all of the advantages of shared channels. The user experience of chat specifically is what matters; the only reason this is even possible is because Slack is focused on one specific part of the stack, and the more companies that take advantage of Slack Connect the more of a moat Slack has. That’s the thing about social networks: their best feature is whether or not your friends are on it, or, in this case, whether or not the companies you are working with are using Slack.

Yes, but Microsoft has the advantage of pulling in more users than Slack is, and there is nothing stopping Microsoft from building a Connect-like capability. Not much of a moat, really.

And wasn’t Workplace for Facebook supposed to be moving into this space? Not hearing much about that these days.

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Augmented Reality

Apple Moving Forward on Semitransparent Lenses for Upcoming AR Headset | Eric Slivka cites The Information [paywall] which reports Apple and Foxconn have reached ‘engineering validation test’ in production of the lenses for the long-awaited Apple Glass AR gear:

Apple is developing the lenses on a single production line at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu in southwestern China, where most of Apple’s iPad production is centered, the person said.

Apple has multiple phases in the development of new products, starting with periods of prototyping in California and China, during which it makes dozens and hundreds of units, respectively, of the products and their parts. As of May, the lenses had entered a stage known as engineering validation test, or EVT, during which Apple typically makes thousands of units, said the person familiar with the matter. During that period, Apple has locked down the design and begins testing its suitability for mass production.

Based on other reports the 2022 gear is likely to be a gaming-oriented VR/AR headset, code-named N301, while a sleeker set of AR glasses are projected for 2023, the N421. The N421 are the ones I want.

Google Glasses

Magic Leap Hires Top Microsoft Executive as C.E.O. | Erin Griffith and Karen Weise reports new head at Magic Leap, meaning a strong shift to the enterprise from gaming:

Ms. Johnson, a former executive at Qualcomm who joined Microsoft six years ago, compared the spatial technology’s promise to the early days of cellular technology and cloud computing.

“It just feels to me that it’s at that same moment in time,” she said. The opportunity is even bigger during the coronavirus pandemic, with people working remotely and traveling less, she said, adding that possible uses for the technology include job training, in the medical field, and industrial automation.

Ms. Johnson is the latest experienced female or executive of color brought in to turn around a struggling company, a phenomenon that researchers have called the “glass cliff.” Last year, Linda Kozlowski, an executive at Etsy and Evernote, took over the flagging meal kit service Blue Apron. In 2018, Jill Soltau, former head of Jo-Ann Stores, was brought in to turn around J.C. Penney.

Magic Leap, which Mr. Abovitz founded in Plantation, Fla., in 2010, has amassed nearly $3.5 billion in venture funding from investors like Google, Alibaba, Fidelity and Andreessen Horowitz, valuing it at $6.4 billion, according to PitchBook.

But after its headset sales flopped, it changed course. Other makers of augmented and virtual reality headsets, including Google Glass, Facebook’s Oculus VR and Microsoft’s HoloLens, have faced similar challenges, with some shifting directions to business applications like manufacturing.

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Acquisitions

Microsoft acquires Softomotive to expand low-code robotic process automation capabilities in Microsoft Power Automate | Microsoft recently acquired Softmotive as an adjunct to the Power Automate product line and a major addition to Microsoft’s push into RPA and low-code development.

Today, we are announcing the acquisition of Softomotive, a world-leading provider of robotic process automation (RPA) with over 15 years of experience and the creator of WinAutomation. By bringing Softomotive’s desktop automation together with the existing Microsoft Power Automate capabilities, at uniquely affordable pricing, Microsoft is further democratizing RPA and enabling everyone to create bots to automate manual business processes.

Of particular importance:

Delivering a comprehensive low-code desktop automation solution with WinAutomation — We are providing customers with additional choices for creating workflows in Power Automate. Now, anyone can build RPA bots with our existing browser-based authoring app or through a new desktop app with WinAutomation.

Expanding the out-of-the-box UI automation drivers for commonly used apps and services — Microsoft is committed to providing the most robust set of RPA capabilities in one platform, and is now expanding the existing desktop automation experience with the addition of Softomotive’s robust set of connectors and applications, such as SAP, legacy terminal screens, Java, Citrix, and more.

The WinAutomation desktop app seems really unique. I need demos.

Slack Acquires Corporate Directory Startup Rimeto, Plans To Operate It As Standalone App | Alex Konrad reports on the fifth acquisition at Slack, employee directory tool Rimeto, which will operate as a standalone but soon-to-be-renamed app:

In an interview, Butterfield said Slack and Rimeto began discussions just before offices across the United States shut down in March due to the spread of Covid-19, though the management teams never met in person. Slack saw the need for a service like Rimeto’s first-hand in the past few months, Butterfield said, as it added several hundred employees who have never met their colleagues outside of videoconferencing and chat tools like Slack’s.

On weekly “therapy calls” with other software CEOs, says Butterfield, tech leaders have expressed concerns about how to maintain social connections and human ties within their companies. That challenge is more acutely felt when employees onboard, switch teams or are part of a reorganization or merger, Butterfield says. Rimeto, Butterfield believes, can alleviate some of that challenge by offering more detailed personal profils about employees and making it easier to search for staff by areas of expertise or resume-appropriate details like where someone went to college, or what technical skills in which they may be proficient.

Or just to be able to know who people are and more about their backgrounds when you meet in a Slack channel or on a Zoom call. Rimeto may prove even more useful now that companies are coordinating in Slack Connect.

Note that Rimeto fills a spot in Slack’s platform something like Microsoft’s Linkedin.

Earlier acquisitions include Astro, a tool to connect Slack with email and calendars (2018), Atlassian’s Stride and HipChat, two competitor work chat tools (2018), Spaces, a collaborative document editor (2014), Missions, an automation tool (2018), and Screenhero, a screen-sharing app (2015). Strangely, little of that technology seems to have led to Slack functionality.

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Elsewhere

Turning The Corner On Virtual Communication | Microsoft announces a long list of advances for Teams meetings, like Together Mode

The Future Is Minimum Office, Not Zero Office | Having the best of both worlds means a lot of WFH and a little WFO

Google+ Is Dead, Long Live Google Currents | The rebranded and reformulated communication and community-cation platform for G Suite

Work Futures Update | On The Edge | Joseph Stiglitz | Working From Home | Small Talk Is Big Again | Big Problems, Small Wins |

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