Slack partners with Zoom to boost video capabilities

One analyst said the move, unveiled at Slack Frontiers, could disrupt both the unified communications and collaboration software markets.

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SAN FRANCISCO – Slack has partnered with cloud video communications vendor Zoom in a move designed to bolster video capabilities for Slack users. The tie-up was unveiled at this week’s Slack Frontiers event.

Zoom – whose stocks began trading on April 17 – competes with Cisco Webex, Skype for Business (now part of Microsoft Teams), Google Hangouts Meet and others, with its Zoom Meetings software. The company also has offerings for conference rooms and phone systems. 

Also like Slack, Zoom has seen swift growth thanks to viral adoption and popularity with end users, and it has an open ecosystem of integrations with other cloud software vendors. Zoom had revenues of $330.5 million in 2019, according to its S-1 filing, an increase of 118% from the previous year. (Slack submitted its own S-1 filing today.)

Raúl Castañón-Martínez, a senior analyst at 451 Research, called the Slack/Zoom integration “very significant and potentially disruptive” for both the unified communication as a service (UCaaS) and team collaboration software markets.

“Both vendors have grown at unprecedented growth rates and are changing how users across thousands of organizations do teamwork, opening up different modes for users to engage with each other,” he said. 

Slack’s video plans

Slack has largely relied on its partner ecosystem to deliver video capabilities for users. In addition to Zoom, Slack integrates with a variety of video communications firms including BlueJeans, join.me, Webex Meetings, appear.in and LogMeIn’s GoToMeeting. 

“Despite Slack’s acquisition of Screen Hero [a screen-sharing software provider], Slack’s synchronous communications capability has been relatively rudimentary compared to vendors such as Cisco, RingCentral or Microsoft,” said Tim Banting, a principal analyst at Ovum. The partnership with Zoom could help Slack “compete more effectively” he said, though it takes a “platform” rather than a “suite” approach used by some competitors.

Its current integration with Zoom – which lets users launch a Zoom Meeting directly from Slack using the /zoom slash command – has proved popular with Slack users. Brad Armstrong, vice president for business development and corporate development at Slack, said during his keynote at Slack Frontiers on Thursday that the Zoom integration is already used by more than 10,000 Slack teams each month. That number is up 200% from a year ago.  

So far, Slack developers have used Zoom’s API to allow users to access the app from Slack. Now, ”we are doubling down on the integration and we are going deeper with the partnership," said Armstrong.

Some of those planned integrations were highlighted at Slack Frontiers. 

Slack users will be able to view additional meeting details and see who is on a call before joining, for example; recently announced integrations with Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar let Slack users join a meeting with one click via a button on a calendar notification. In addition, Slack admins will also be able change the default setting for a workspace’s phone icon to immediately start a conversation in Zoom.

There are also plans to integrate with the recently unveiled Zoom Phone service, which will support calls to other Slack users over cellular, data or Wi-Fi connections.

Zoom Phone could let customers bring branches and remote staff online quickly without investing in additional telephony equipment through Zoom’s cloud-based system, said Banting. That would be a plus for Slack customers. “This move essentially UC-enables Slack’s workflow platform and makes it easy for teams to hold effective meetings with an easy-join experience through the client,” he said.

The Zoom integration helps fill a gap in Slack’s portfolio, and increases overlap with functions  traditionally offered by UCaaS providers, said Castañón-Martínez. At the same time, UCaaS providers have moved to add team collaboration features to their platforms. Both moves have  implications for customer buying plans.

“While not likely in the short term, this overlap will eventually lead to a significant number of companies evaluating whether their business communications requirements can be fully addressed by Slack, leading them to displace their existing UCaaS solutions,” said Castañón-Martínez.

This story, "Slack partners with Zoom to boost video capabilities" was originally published by Computerworld.

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