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Interoperability could help 8x8 Team Messaging stand out

8x8 has added a team messaging app to its cloud-based unified communications and contact center suites, joining a growing list of vendors in a market kick-started by Slack.

8x8 has added a team collaboration app to its cloud-based unified communications and contact center portfolio, filling a gap in its product line as many competing vendors invest in similar products.

8x8 Team Messaging, introduced this week, supports small-group instant messaging and online meetings in an interface similar to Slack. Businesses can create public and private channels. Previously, 8x8 only had one-to-one messaging.

8x8 has made chat interoperability a priority. Last year, the vendor acquired Sameroom, a technology for federating instant messaging among apps from different vendors. For example, the tool would let a Slack user chat with a Google Hangouts Chat user without either party having to create an account in the other app.

8x8 will continue to offer Sameroom as a stand-alone service. But it has also used the technology to make 8x8 Team Messaging interoperable with 23 third-party chat apps, including Slack and Cisco Webex Teams. (Sameroom doesn't yet work with Microsoft Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.)

The interoperability feature should appeal to large enterprises whose employees use multiple messaging products. It could also be helpful for external collaboration, eliminating the need for guest accounts, which create compliance and security headaches for enterprises. 

8x8 also highlighted how easy it is to deploy its team chat app company-wide. The app links with a customer's global directory, so that businesses can create 8x8 Team Messaging accounts for every employee, all at once. In contrast, many other team collaboration apps require businesses to manually add users.

Team chat app completes 8x8's UC and contact center portfolio

8x8 is in the business of selling cloud telephony and has been among the most successful vendors in the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) market. 8x8 Team Messaging plugs a gap in the vendor's portfolio as more and more businesses look to adopt team collaboration apps.

"The market for team collaboration is more competitive than ever," said Alan Lepofsky, analyst at Constellation Research. "Traditional UC and call center vendors are adding team collaboration features like social networking and file-sharing, while collaboration vendors are adding features like VoIP and web-conferencing."

8x8 will not offer the app as a stand-alone product, at least for now. That suggests the product was developed more to avoid falling behind UCaaS competitors than to challenge similar apps such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams.

The new product should also support 8x8's efforts in the cloud contact center market since chat is the usual method of communication between customer service agents and knowledge workers. 8x8 recently released a platform that combines unified communications and contact center capabilities, the X Series.

RingCentral, one of 8x8's biggest competitors, has been investing in team collaboration for years. It acquired the collaboration app Glip in 2015 and had since integrated that offering with its UCaaS portfolio.

8x8 Team Messaging is available now to customers above a certain subscription tier that download the latest versions of 8x8's desktop and mobile apps.

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