It seems like yesterday tech pundits were singing the praises of scrappy up-and-coming business-messaging app Slack. Today? The company is valued at $2.8 billion, and if recent news is anything to judge by, they’re just getting started.
In a now-familiar course for tech startups, Slack is looking to branch out into new territory. Their new goal? Become a hub for productivity apps.
What’s Slack Doing?
If you’re not familiar with Slack, think of it as a sort of Facebook for professionals. It offers a place to trade messages, files and other resources with colleagues. And for a while, that’s all Slack’s creators wanted it to be.
But now, thanks to a new round of venture capitalist funding to the tune of $80 million, Slack’s creators are building what they’re calling an “App Directory” — and it’s everything the name would suggest. When it’s complete, it will be an in-app showroom that allows third parties to build and distribute apps specifically for use within the Slack ecosystem.
Slack CEO Steward Butterfield had this to say about the new project:
“We really want to encourage all kinds of different applications on our platform … We’ve worked with a number of big companies to do integrations, but we’re also investing in really cool little things starting up.”
One example? An app called Howdy, which uses Slack technology to provide status-update meetings and automatically collects feedback from users.
Productivity Apps Come of Age
Productivity software seems like a booming business these days. With each major release, cloud storage provider Dropbox integrates more and more team-based features. Same goes for 1Password, and especially for Microsoft, now that they’ve followed Apple’s example and made their flagship operating system available free of charge. Without having much skin in the hardware business, Microsoft has been trying a variety of subscription-based business models for their productivity programs (such as Excel and Word), with varying degrees of success. They’ve even gone so far as to release rather impressive mobile versions of Office for iPad. But will it be enough to compete?
Maybe it won’t matter. When it launches, Slack’s App Directory will feature offerings from not only Dropbox, but also Google and Twitter. Who’s to say Microsoft won’t eventually target this market as well? Their business is software, and software needs to be everywhere.
With so many choices, and seemingly more every day, the productivity software boom is flooding the market with a wealth of amazing tools for professionals who make their living in front of computer screens.
A More Seamless Workflow
But productivity is a funny thing. For all the tools available to us, it seems like more choice only gives rise to more distractions. Or does it?
Whereas Slack and Dropbox, just to name two examples, once seemed like mutually-exclusive walled gardens, this App Directory collaboration will bring them together for the first time in one place. This is going to be important for the productivity-minded in a bunch of different ways.
For starters, it means less hopping from app to app during the workday. Android users have an average of 95 apps installed on their phones, and smartphone users in general accessed 26.7 apps per month in the fourth quarter of 2014 — a number that’s only going to increase as our smart devices become even smarter.
The point? We’ll look at our home screens less frequently as Slack and other major productivity apps incorporate more and more features, and draw upon other companies for expanded functionality. It means our workflows will become more natural extensions of us, and we’ll spend more time interacting with our favorite apps than we will switching between them.
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