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Microsoft shuts down its GigJam work collaboration app

By Lucas Mearian Aug 24th 2017
After piloting the collaboration tool for more than a year, Microsoft pulled the plug this week, saying it has learned from the project and plans to use those lessons on future products.

Microsoft is shutting down a work collaboration application it has been piloting over the past year, saying only that it learned a lot from the project and that the experience would help it with future products.

In a blog post , Microsoft stated simply "after careful consideration, we've decided to retire the GigJam Preview on September 22, 2017."

The GigJam application allows users to share information with others in real time, allowing co-workers to make changes or annotations that the entire group can then see.

gigjam iphone surface hub 2 100596171 orig Microsoft

GigJam's iPhone and Surface hub. GigJam allowed a user to share information from multiple web services, such as Office 365, Dropbox, Salesforce and LinkedIn, by simply circling it or redacting what they didn't want to share by crossing it out.

"GigJam was an incredibly bold and powerful concept. The problem is, it didn't have a metaphor that people could easily relate to. It was not file sharing, web conferencing, or social networking. It was a new way to work," said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

GigJam works by allowing a user to pull up data from a variety of business web services such as Office 365, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Salesforce and Trello.

The information a user wants to share can be used to begin a "Gig," enabling it to be shared in a workspace. A user simply circles the information – with their finger or a stylus – they want to appear. Users can also redact information they don't want to share by crossing it out.

The other people in the Gig session only see the information being shared and cannot access other material the originator has in front of them.

The GigJam interface worked via keyboard and mouse, but it also could be enabled through touch and voice input. GigJam remains available – for now – on Windows, Mac and iOS version.

Art Schoeller, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said GigJam’s main focus was on document sharing and co-editing -- something that team messaging tools such as Slack do not offer.

"Slack lines up with Microsoft Teams as a direct competitor, along with Cisco’s Spark, Atlassian Hipchat and many, many others. These Team Messaging apps do not provide for document sharing and co-editing in the fashion GigJam did. Yes Slack or Team can invoke a document sharing or co-editing session, but it is not a native capability," Schoeller said.

Other collaboration platforms such as Yammer (purchased by Microsoft) represent a class of vendors that in their day was known as Enterprise Social Networking. Jive and IBM Connections are two other notable competitors, Schoeller said. "These products have broader and deeper ways to establish and manage a community, but many clients are confused on the role of newer Team Messaging apps vs Enterprise Social. There is a lot of cross over," he said.

Microsoft's own SharePoint represents document storing, management, and and enterprise portal product.

"Bottom line is we feel that Microsoft has many, many products inside Office 365 and needs to do some level rationalization. This includes the role Skype For Business plays," Schoeller said. "We expect some merger or consolidation of these various collaboration interfaces."

For example, he said, Unified Communications vendors (e.g. Cisco's Spark) will likely collapse their softphone, instant messaging, and team messaging interfaces into one.

"The learning gained from GigJam needs to be applied to the larger effort to bring all these together," Schoeller said.

Microsoft said in its blog that GigJam Preview "delivered learnings and insights that will inform future product experiences."

In an email reply to Computerworld, Microsoft declined to say whether or not it was planning a follow-on collaboration application to GigJam.

Even though Microsoft is shuttering the platform itself, Lepofsky said he is confident that many of the new concepts GigJam introduced will live on in future versions of the company's core Office 365 applications.

"In my opinion, that's where they should have been in the first place. People don't need another tool," Lepofsky said. "I believe the primary focus we'll see going forward will be in enhancing Microsoft Teams. Teams Aggregates together functionality from across various apps in Office 365.

"That makes it the perfect place to add some of the GigJam concepts into."

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