Cloud Chat

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Audio Length 00:44:11

S2: Hello, welcome to the cloud discussion of Slate Money, your guide to the business and Finance News of the Week.

S3: I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck of Huff Post. Hi. I’m here with Anna Shamansky of Breakingviews. Hello. And we are coming to you from some podcast hosting service in the cloud. There was a very good chance that you are streaming this podcast as I speak. And we are going to talk all about these cloud services this week. The news is that Salesforce, the company that more or less invented this whole concept of cloud services, has bought slack, which if you use it, you probably use every day, all the time. We are also going to talk about the Nasdaq, the stock exchange, which has a big board diversity push going. We are going to talk about Amazon and its massive hiring spree. And we also have a Slate plus segment about movies and whether we are ever going to go back to movie theaters. All that coming up on Slate Money. I feel like I have spent most of this pandemic on slack in one way or another, it is become my life. Emily, you’re nodding you all of us, like all day, all night is just consumed you in the way that it has many of us.

S4: Yeah. Slack has always been a big part of my work life and definitely in the pandemic that has doubled because all the little incidental conversations and office gossip and random complaining that I typically do has moved completely over to slack from in-person communication. And I suspect that’s the same for most workers who are using slack. You’re just using it a lot more.

S3: And UNOPS is is breaking views on Slack know. Are you on Microsoft, on Microsoft team.

S1: Are on Microsoft teams. Yes.

S3: Wow. OK, so you can see where we’re going with this. Right. Is the news of the week. The big news of the week is that slack, which was this rocket ship, enterprise software company. I never quite know what an enterprise software company is. It apparently is an enterprise software company. This mortgage company, which took the tech world by storm, was basically beaten by this product called Microsoft Teams, which is loved by no one. And eventually this week wound up announcing that it was selling itself to Salesforce because apparently you need to be part of a massive, massive organization like Microsoft or Salesforce if you want to have any hope in getting big organizations like Thomson Reuters to buy you and it that more or less what happened.

S1: Yeah, I think that that is somewhat what happened. And I think from Salesforce side, they are also looking at this and that is a bit of a defensive move because they can see Microsoft being helped by having teams. And when people use teams, that then also means they’re using a lot of other Microsoft products. So that may be another one of the reasons that from Salesforce aside, why this looks attractive.

S3: So, Emily, given how ubiquitous slack is in our lives, do you understand why it has kind of failed to be everywhere for everyone? Why is it that it is everywhere for us and not everywhere for everyone? Is it a media thing?

S4: Yeah, I was thinking about this, Felix, because you posed the question in your newsletter, even though you’d think in the pandemic slack would have exploded and so many people would have started using it. And like I just said, I have been using it more. It hasn’t exploded the way Zoom has. Zoom use has gone crazy. Zoom has really thrived in the pandemic. And I think the difference is or one of the differences is that Zoom is something that was used by everyone outside of the weird world of enterprise software, outside of companies and outside of work. People have been using Zoom and all kinds of ways outside the work world. Like my family uses Zoom, many people’s families are using Zoom to do like holidays and events and people are using it to do funerals. And, you know, there is press conferences on Zoome and there’s that horrid word, webinars on zoom and zoom. Zoom. Zoom has just had more universal pick up than Slack has, just really hasn’t gotten to the mainstream the same way that Zoom has in the pandemic.

S3: And I think that’s part of the reason why it got gobbled up in a bunch of WhatsApp groups on a bunch of text threads. I have a bunch of groups of people that talk to each other and most of them are not on slack. If I were to go to my cousins in Germany and say, hey, can we move off this WhatsApp group and can we all just move on to slack because it’s a pretty product or something. They would all look at me like I had seven heads. And I think that is one of the big differences between black and Zoom, like in principle is has the same model. Right. You can download it for free. You can use it for free. You can set up a little family select group if that’s what you’re inclined to do. But in practice, people don’t do that. I am in a handful of different groups. I’m in select groups with friends which are fun. But that is not a super common use case in the way that having a quick sort of celebratory birthday Zoome during a pandemic. I think everyone has experienced that.

S1: Yeah. I mean, I also think that going into the pandemic, people had, as you said, they were using WhatsApp. They’re using all of these other tools, have been using them for years to communicate with people. But people didn’t already had set up channels of video communication. Like that’s something that really only started for normal people outside of companies with the pandemic. So then it makes sense why Zoom could gain all this market share, whereas something like Slack is not going to be able to.

S3: And the other. Thing which I have learned about back in the day or so since my newsletter came out is that a lot of people really hate it. It was incredibly popular in the early days when it took off among early adopter techie types who really loved the product and who loved how they could plug in all manner of plug ins and use it to do very powerful things. But it turns out that just normal folks who work in offices really don’t like the way that it kind of takes over your life and. Intrudes on your work life there, like I actually have a workflow and it is incredibly distracting and unhelpful and I don’t want to be looking at gifts all day. And what I think the advantage that Microsoft has is that it isn’t fun. Microsoft teams is not a fun experience where people love to goof off and play around. It is just another random work tool, like Word or Excel or even Windows for that matter, which you just have to use because that’s what you use at work and it doesn’t feel as intrusive in the same way. But tell me, because you’re the person who uses it. How do you feel about it?

S1: Yeah, I mean, I don’t dislike teams as much as I dislike teams a few months ago now that I’ve kind of figured out for the most part how it works. But I do think that the one annoying thing about teams and I imagine is the same with Slack, is that when you’re sent an email, you can respond to that email or you can respond to that email later. If somebody sends you something on teams, you feel like you have to respond in that moment or you’re being rude. It’s like somebody tapping you on the shoulder and you’re like not looking and responding. And I will say that that is not always great. Now, sometimes that is definitely a benefit, especially in the media where you’re working on tight deadlines. It can be useful if you need to get somebody very quickly, but it can also be frustrating.

S3: Yeah, it’s very difficult in slack or in teams to differentiate between. This is incredibly urgent. We need to do this now. And here’s a stupid joke that I dropped into the channel because, you know, we’re having fun here, especially when a single channel can be used for both purposes, which, you know, they should be like. It’s important to lighten things up occasionally. It can be very difficult to try and get your mind in the right space. And if you’re trying to concentrate on work and not be distracted, both of these products are suboptimal. And on some level, I think that the post pandemic life, once the pandemic has gone away and people start going back into offices again, one of the things that people will love to be able to do is really use these things much less. And they might well be associated with like, oh, remember that terrible software that annoyed me so much during the pandemic. I’m so bad. I don’t need to use that anymore.

S1: I don’t know about that. I, I think that people certainly will use these things less for the obvious reason that they will be in a room with other people. But I think that these habits have been pretty ingrained. And also before the pandemic, we were being pushed to use teams more and more. And I think that has been happening at a lot of companies. So as everyone says, with everything in this crisis, I think it has accelerated something that was already happening.

S4: I would add that the reason Slack was just sold for so many billions of dollars is because it is the rare piece of enterprise software office work software that’s actually pretty good and and intuitive and easy to use. I remember at Huff Post first we went to a product called Campfire that I guess didn’t really take off, and then we moved to slack. But it was so much more productive to talk to your team on Slack versus what we had been doing before, which was like an amalgam of like emails and chats and this and that. It was truly a breakthrough product for our workplace. And I think it’s this business model, black hat and a few other software products where it’s like people in the office start using it on their own and then you kind of force the manager to buy the product. And that was like Slack’s innovation. But it’s also its limitation because at the end of the day, the I.T. officer and the the people at the top of the organization, they’re going to go with the product that is bundled with all the other products, even if it’s like the crappier product. So this is kind of like the best thing in a way that could happen to slack.

S3: Yes. So the great advantage of teams and the reason why teams is now so much more popular has massively overtaken slack is simply that it is perceived by. Senior management to be, quote unquote, free, now, nothing is ever free, but the fact is that if you have an enterprise license for office, then teams comes with it so you don’t need to pay. And so if you’re if you’re on the sales team and someone’s like, why should I pay for slack when I get teams for free, it’s hard to come up with a compelling answer. Teams integrates into the office we already have, and it doesn’t involve paying more money and maybe at the margin it is a slightly prettier and better design products. But corporations don’t love paying money for pretty and better design.

S1: Definitely. Bloomberg has certainly taught us that.

S4: The other thing Shira Ovid pointed out at New York Times, which is just so true, is like the client for a product like slacker teams is not even the person that really is using it that much at the company like Slack. And teams are selling to these I.T. managers and to these senior executives who are making decisions about about products that they aren’t really the end user for, which in the end gives you a worse product like email, for example. I remember the bad old days when I was at the Journal and I had to use Microsoft Outlook for email. And it was you know, I didn’t know that there was a better world out there. But then when I finally got to her first, we started using Gmail and I was like, oh, this is this is the brave new world. And then I had learned that when the company was bought by whatever big company bought it, first AOL, they had to beg to use Gmail because the big corporate overlords wanted outlook. And it was like a whole struggle. And it’s always it seems like it’s always a struggle to use the most user friendly stuff at these big corporations. They want to steer you into the wonkiest, worst software products that are out there.

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