Secure Enterprise Messaging with Teamwire

There is a relatively new enterprise messaging app called “Teamwire“. The app is a fast, easy to use and secure app for all internal enterprise messaging needs. Basically the goal seems to be to offer mid-sized businesses and large corporations a secure and enterprise-capable messaging app with a clear focus on mobile devices.

Within corporations employees often use Whatsapp or similar consumer messaging apps to quickly reach colleagues, discuss topics in real-time, drive work and make decisions. Email with its crowded and overflowing inboxes is too busy and not capable of these tasks anymore. Besides on mobile devices users prefer simple and easy to use apps, which are fully integrated in the mobile operating system for additional features. However, messaging apps like Whatsapp are not secure and violate corporate IT compliance.

As an alternative there are business messaging services (also referred to as unified communication services). While there are many business messaging services available (HipChat, Lync, Hall, Sametime, Slack, etc. – just to name a few), most of them come from the PC world and lack a focus on mobile devices. Furthermore, most of them focus and small and medium businesses, and are not enterprise-capable. If they are enterprise-capable (like e.g. Lync), their strengths mostly rest in VOIP services and online meeting tools. Thus, there is no dedicated enterprise messaging app or a “Whatsapp for enterprise” yet. This seems to be the goal of Teamwire.

From a feature set, Teamwire is pretty similar to the leading consumer messaging apps: 1:1 and group messaging, and sharing of any digital content (videos, photos, locations, voice messages, links with previews, etc.). A couple of features stand out though:

First, there is what Teamwire calls a visual inbox. This enables users to easily start new chats for different topics, and thus avoids the mixing of conversations in one chat only. Especially for group messaging this is great, and since group messaging is a major business use case, this is quite an important feature. Another advantage of the visual inbox is, that users can post status updates and therefore are able to easily share news like in a company social network. Second, Teamwire has read receipts – not only on an individual but also on a group level. So you can exactly see which recipients of a group message have seen your message. Third, the app offers on-click distribution lists. Users can set-up lists for their team, unit, group or anything they like, and then message and share with these colleagues with one-click. Fourth, users can easily share calendar dates as well as files. Again, these are important business use cases.

Teamwire - Secure Enterprise Messaging

Teamwire – Enterprise Messaging

However, the main differentiator of Teamwire are the security and administrator features. The service is completely encrypted: The transmission, the meta data, the messages, the content and the storage on the servers. As a German provider Teamwire complies with strong German and European data protection laws (e.g. anonymizing user data, no address book storage, etc.), and all data is stored in Germany only.

In addition, Teamwire offers an administrator portal. The portal enables enterprise IT to manage all users, define communication rules (e.g. closed communication groups to protect distribution of content), and archive messages. In order to fully comply with enterprise requirements, Teamwire also supports the enterprise mobility solution of the leading mobile device management vendor “MobileIron“.

As a deployment option, Teamwire offers a private cloud solution or an on-premise solution (based on the information of the Techcrunch database). This is quite interesting, since everything moves to the cloud nowadays. Teamwire seems to bet on the enduring on-premise requirements of large corporations.  

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New Messaging Apps and Current Trends

The first wave of messaging apps on smartphones had mainly one goal: To replace texting/SMS and offer better messaging at much lower cost. The instant messaging apps started with sending simple text messages, and then soon added the ability to exchange photos and other digital content, as well as nice features like delivered receipts. Nowadays, many messaging apps are far superior to texting/SMS, and several even offer group chats. To better understand, what the next wave of messaging apps will improve, it makes sense to have a closer look at current trends in the messaging space.

Stickers, Fun and Personal Messaging

Stickers have probably been the biggest trend among messaging apps for the last couple of months. In addition to the classical emoticons (emoji), stickers offer users an additional way to express themselves – referring to the questionable quote: “a sticker says more than a 1000 words”. Most major providers (e.g. Line, Viber, Kakao Talk, ChatON) have added stickers of all sorts: Comic figures, cartoons, art, popular brands, etc. These stickers are often available in packages, and in many cases they cost between $1 and $2. Stickers have become a substantial source of revenue for messaging apps – especially for the Asian providers, which generate millions of dollars with stickers.

Another way to make texting more fun and personal is the introduction of custom fonts. If a message can be sent in a custom font like a handwriting, marker, news or comic type, it enables the user to better express themselves and gives the message a personal note. Furthermore, with custom themes or backgrounds users can receive kind of a “mobile postcard”. The first messaging app that introduced custom fonts and themes for more personal messaging was Grouptime, but other providers seem to start to follow.

Single Purpose Messaging Apps

Snapchat was one of the first popular single purpose messaging apps. Snapchat allowed users to send photos only, and assured that they are deleted on the recipients device automatically. Recently, some other apps have tried to be successful with the single purpose approach as well: DingDong focuses on location sharing only and GIF Chat enables users to exchange animated GIFs only. The success of the single purpose messaging apps remains to be seen. If they offer differentiated functionality or a use case that cannot be easily replicated by the leading messaging apps, they have a chance to establish a niche for their product. However, e.g. a standard location sharing feature alone is probably not enough to make such a simple app attractive for a broader set of users.

GIF Chat

Better Group Messaging and Sharing

While group chats are a standard by now, the users are often not satisfied with standard group chat functionality anymore: For sharing of photos with friends, group chats are easy to set up, but are not visually nice and don’t provide quick feedback mechanisms. Even if group chats are easy to set up, if you regularly start group chats with the same people, there should be simpler ways to add recipients or save distribution lists. Or, if users start different topics within the same chat, the communication can get confusing. These are just some of many examples, where better group messaging functionality is required.

Thus, some providers are now offering sophisticated group messaging and sharing solutions for family and friends (e.g. Grouptime, Line Band).  Some of these apps really work like the combination of an instant messaging app and a private social network: There is real-time communication with push notifications, but the group messages are presented in a nice visual feed, even with the ability to like content. Once you have tried it, you will see how superior this is to traditional group chats.

Stronger Security and Privacy

Due to the latest PRISM and NSA affair, more and more users are worried about their privacy and demand stronger security features from messaging apps. As a result, several secure messaging apps have been announced (e.g. Hemlis, Whistle). However, since end-to-end security and complete privacy protection are complicated topics, it remains to be seen how secure and good these apps will be initially (UPDATE: At least Whistle seems not to be secure in its current version). In the meantime we expect the providers of established messaging services (at least the better ones) to improve their security and privacy features. From our point of view, security and strong data protection should be a standard for messaging apps, and not a feature.

Gaming and Public Chat Forums

Especially the Asian messaging providers have started to introduce games, third party services and public chat forums in their apps. This is basically the Facebook strategy: Building a platform for all apps and services, and trying to offer the user everything in one app. Users, who love games and public interest forums, will find a benefit from this approach. Still, for many users these apps will become to complex and cluttered with features, and they will prefer the more simple, focussed and let’s say traditional messaging apps.

Business Messaging Apps

For the business communication with colleagues and teams, messaging apps are becoming more and more important. Of course businesses could use traditional instant messaging apps like Skype, ICQ, etc. or the newer versions of Whatsapp, Viber, Line and Co., but often a dedicated messaging app for business communication has advantages.

Desktop and Mobile Apps Offered

Most business messaging apps not only offer mobile apps for iPhone and Android, but a desktop client to enable easy access to your messages. This is generally great, but requires a good synchronization mechanism between the various clients and the server. Besides push notifications for new messages need to be delivered reliably.

Since some of the business messaging apps have their origin on the desktop, reliable push notifications and synchronization are often not certain. So if you select a provider, make sure to test these features beforehand.

Video Communication and File Sharing

Business messaging apps enables users to have 1-to-1 and group chats. Several apps also feature persistent chat rooms for individual projects, teams or entire departments. In order to serve more of your business communication needs, some of these messaging apps offer the ability to share files, and some even enable video meetings for small teams.

Strong Security and Privacy Required

Nearly all business messaging apps use an SSL encryption for the transmission of the messages, and promote the security of their services as being as safe as a bank. However, be aware that there still can be strong differences in the security and privacy features of the various providers. Depending on the level of security you need, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is only the transmission of the messages encrypted, or are the messages themselves encrypted as well?
  2. Are the messages stored encrypted on the server? And can the provider read the messages?
  3. Do user accounts and profiles get anonymized, so their privacy is fully protected? And if not, what user data gets stored?
  4. How regularly does the provider backup data, and on the other hand delete delivered messages from the server?
  5. Is the data stored in the USA (where it can be easily accessed by government agencies), in Europe (where data protection is much stronger) or elsewhere?
  6. From what country is the provider of the business messaging app, and what are the underlying data protection laws?

Relatively Young Market

Yet, there are not many dedicated and capable business messaging apps available. Several providers have started out with desktop and web apps and then extended into mobile (e.g. the business messaging services YammerHallHipChat and OneTeam). In addition, some new providers with a focus on mobile are about to launch: GoComm will focus on messaging for mobile workforces, and Teamwire will offer secure enterprise group messaging for instant, personal and private messaging with teams and colleagues.

Overall, it is still a relatively young market and it will be interesting to see, how business messaging apps will simplify and improve the communication as well as help to grow the productivity of a workplace.

Messaging Apps for Couples

Today I want to write a short post about messaging apps for couples. For modern-day couples these kind of messaging apps can be advantageous. Especially in situations where a spouse travels for work, or where the couple is in a long distance relationship.

A Private Space for Couples to Share

The most famous couple messaging apps are Avocado, Between and Couple. Another one called FeelMe is currently in the making. All these apps provide a private space for couples to share messages, photos, voice mails and videos. The advantage compared to classical texting is that you have dedicated app for your spouse, which you only have to open and can start texting right away (without searching for her/him). Some couples value a dedicated app where private moments and the history of their messaging texts are kept.

Between App for Couples

Special Features for Couples in Long Distance Relationships

However, since the benefits above alone might not be enough for some, most of these apps also offer shared to-do lists, sketches, albums and calendars. Further, apps like Couple and Avocado even offer “touch” features, showing when the other person is touching the phone. This should make the other person feel closer, even when she/he might be thousands of miles away due to a long distance relationship.

All couples apps above have a pretty nice design and user interface. If you are in search of a private messaging app for your spouse, try them out, and see which one best fits your need.

Stickers Are Fun But Will Make Messaging More Expensive

One of the major messaging trends currently are stickers. In addition to standard emoticons which are often provided by an operating system (iOS, RIM, etc.) or even by a messaging app, a lot of messaging services nowadays are adding all sorts of stickers.

Stickers allow a more individual expression

Stickers can be everything that enable a more funny and more individual expression: Things like nicer emoticons, comic figures, popular toy heroes and lovely animals are typical examples. Many stickers are actually made by famous artists and designers. Since the sticker trend emerged in Asia, many popular stickers are pretty unfamiliar in Western Cultures.

Stickers are one of the main messaging trends of this year

WeChat, Line, Viber, Path and KakaoTalk are just some of many messaging apps following that trend. For them it is a great way to monetize their app, since the stickers are sold in packages which normally cost between $1 and $2. Users in Asia seem to love stickers and often buy several of these packages. That generates millions of dollars of revenue for some of these messaging apps.

Stickers

Stickers get expensive but there are alternatives for more personal expression

In general stickers are fun, and probably we will regularly see new stickers and designs. The possibilities here are basically endless. The question is, if stickers might be just a short term trend? Well, some users like teenagers will always enjoy sending new stickers…especially to close friends and family. However, the majority of users might get bored of them and will hesitate spending money on a relatively expensive feature.

In order to make messaging more personal and enable users to better express themselves, there are also other innovations on the way: Grouptime now allows sending messages with personal fonts and themes. More on that in one of the next articles.

How Messaging Apps Are Becoming The New Social Networks

While the media mainly discusses the strong growth and influence of social media, many people fail to realize a far bigger trend: The incredible growth of messaging apps, and how they are increasingly replacing traditional social networks.

Many messaging apps are strongly growing and have more than 100 millions users

Each mobile messaging app like WeChat, Line, Whatsapp, Kakao Talk and Viber has 100 million or even more users. Besides there are a lot of smaller and often more specialized players like Grouptime, Kik, Snapchat, etc. All of them not only seem to be strongly growing, but also rise at a much higher rate than the big social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Co.

The daily usage of messaging apps is among the highest of all mobile apps. Users open their messaging apps several times a day, and often send hundred messages or more. Compare that with social networks: They are still without doubt a place of regular visits, however, more for content browsing and entertainment (and killing boredom as some say). The intensive communication with close friends and family, something social networks were used for in the past, is handled increasingly by messaging apps. And if you believe the latest studies, the usage of social networks is clearly on the decline.

Group chats replace social networks for sharing with family and friends

While instant messaging apps have been primarily used for 1-to-1 conversations, some of them have started to offer simple group chat features. People quickly have found out that, in addition to straight forward communication and coordination, these group chats are great for quick photo sharing with family and friends. Especially because group chats are so easy to set up and completely private, they offer the right environment for private sharing without the complicated settings on social networks.

Some newer messaging apps like Grouptime now completely concentrate on group messaging and private sharing. You can share with one-click with personal groups like family and friends. The messaging inbox works with posts with nice, large photos like a social network, but in real-time like a messaging app. It is basically a real-time private social network.

Other apps like Line offer a status feed like on Facebook. Well, in this case there are no privacy controls, and it is not different than your well-known social network, so the benefit is quite limited. However, it shows how some messaging apps further enter the social networking realm.

Sharing of digital content with messaging apps gets better and better

Messaging apps don’t stop with group photo sharing. All content sharing features are widely improved: Users now can easily exchange whereabouts via location databases, videos, voice messages, calendar dates, website links and even YouTube videos. Furthermore, some apps allow you to share multiple content items and photos at once (Grouptime is a good example again).

In the future it is expected that even more content types can be shared, and also the integration in various third party apps and services will become common. In regard to innovative features, messaging apps have already taken the lead. Basically, all functions (including “liking”) of social networks and much more will be possible with the leading messaging apps.

Private sharing is strongly on the rise and far larger than public sharing

A recent study estimates that sharing via Facebook and Twitter is only the tip of the iceberg, and private sharing via instant messaging and email nowadays accounts for ca. 70% of all sharing. With the unstoppable rise of mobile messaging apps these figures will be outdated soon, and Facebook and Twitter will be further challenged. Even Mark Zuckerberg noted in a recent article, that sharing with smaller, private groups is the biggest trend Facebook is seeing.

How the social networking giants will react is unclear, but one thing is sure: Messaging apps will be the primary way to easily, privately and securely share with family and friends.

Facebook Home offers persistent messaging with Chat Heads

Last weeks messaging news was definitely the announcement of Facebook Home with its Chat Heads feature. It allows you to instant message with friends, regardless of what app you are already in on your Android phone at any point.

Avatars for quick access to chats

So if you are e.g. browsing the web or playing a game, and are receiving a message from a friend, an avatar will appear on the screen with your friend’s Facebook profile picture. By tapping on it, a messaging window will open, that allows users to chat like in other standard texting or messaging apps.

Facebook Home with Chat Heads Messaging

Facebook Home with Chat Heads Messaging

The advantage from Facebook’s point of view is that you don’t have to switch between apps, and go back to what you have been doing before immediately. So for ongoing conversations this messaging feature provides fast access. The downside of the messaging feature of Facebook Home is, that some users will perceive it as quite intrusive, and won’t let them focus on what they are currently doing.

Privacy and data protection at risk

Besides, with installing “Home” on your Android device you will provide Facebook with even more information for targeting its ads. Facebook will probably not hesitate to collect any information they might redeem necessary for the growth of their business. For users worried about privacy and data protection, Chat Heads is probably not the right messaging app.

Looking at the notification systems of iPhone and Android, which already work quite similar on many devices, we expect standard features and messaging apps like Chat Heads pre-installed by the device makers (e.g. Apple, Samsung, etc.).