Zoom Launches Latest Salvo in Collaboration Platform War

    Zoom Video Communications, Inc. today made available a Zoom Apps capability that makes it possible to embed third-party applications within both Zoom Meetings and the company’s desktop client.

    That capability will serve as a foundational element of an initiative to infuse collaboration capabilities into the Zoom platform, says Ross Mayfield, product lead for Zoom. 

    As part of that strategy Zoom revealed today that Zoom Events, a cloud service for hosting large scale interactive online events, is also now generally available. In addition, Zoom earlier this week announced it is acquiring Five9, a provider of a cloud platform for managing customer service, for $14.7 billion. 

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the number of daily participants on the Zoom platform has grown from 10 million to more than 300 million, says Mayfield. The opportunity now is to extend the capabilities of the platform in a way that enables organizations to be more productive during a Zoom meeting by accessing, for example, a project management application. “The centerpiece of collaboration is video,” says Mayfield.

    At the launch of Zoom Apps there are more than 50 applications available that span everything from Dropbox Spaces and the enterprise edition of SurveyMonkey to video games. Zoom is now making a concerted effort to counter a similar application integration strategy that Microsoft is employing using Microsoft Teams. Microsoft has already moved quickly to integrate its portfolio of applications with a Microsoft Teams platform that similarly employs video to enable online collaboration.

    Read more: Zoom Bets $14.7 Billion on Hybrid Workforce with Five9 Buy

    Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams

    It’s not clear to what degree Zoom will be able to thwart Microsoft’s ambitions. There will always be a base of corporate customers that are going to employ Microsoft Teams within the context of a subscription license that Microsoft now employs to provide access to its productivity applications. Zoom, however, with an installed base of 300 million daily participants presents third-party application developers with a distribution channel that makes their applications more accessible to a large pool of potential end users. Developers only need to invoke a set of REST application programming interfaces (APIs) and Webhooks that Zoom already exposes, notes Mayfield.

    There are already more than 1,500 applications available in the Zoom Marketplace that will, over time, become more tightly integrated with Zoom Meetings, he adds.

    It’s not clear to what degree one collaboration platform can at this point achieve total dominance. An organization may standardize on one platform or another for internal meetings. However, different organizations will adopt collaboration platforms that, in addition to Zoom and Microsoft, include offerings from Cisco, Slack, and a host of other services. The decision to go with one platform versus another is often driven not just by cost but also the degree to which organizations prefer a collaboration platform provided by Microsoft versus a Zoom offering hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud.

    One way or another, however, the way individuals collaborate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed. The challenge now is finding a way to enable that collaboration to seamlessly occur at any time of day regardless of where anyone is physically located. As is the case in all things IT, enabling that ability to securely work from anywhere often turns out to be one of those many things that is easier said than done.      

    Read next: ServiceNow Lends Support to Microsoft Cloud PC Initiative

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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