When everybody’s good at video chat, you have to try something else
Zoom may be getting ready for its biggest expansion yet: the company is preparing to launch email and calendar apps, The Information reported, and could do so before the end of this year. That would turn Zoom, which has already evolved from a video chat platform to a competitor to Slack and whiteboard apps and even your office phone, into a full-fledged competitor to Google Workspace and Microsoft Office.
Getting into other work apps would seem like a departure for Zoom, but it makes sense the company would go after them. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan has long said he prefers to be a partner to other work tools rather than replace them, but as Zoom’s own platform ambitions have grown, so has the company’s desire to own more of the work ecosystem.
Calendar and email are both heavily used as scheduling tools, too, which means Zoom could integrate more deeply with companies that already use it. And on the flip side, both Google and Microsoft are trying to edge Zoom out: the Meet button in Google Calendar seems to get a little bigger every day, and those companies are betting their default status will ultimately win.
Zoom was able to grow so fast in the last few years by being additive: it was better at video than anything in those suites, so people adopted it in droves. Now, Teams and Meet are both solid products. And with companies around the industry tightening spending, Zoom may start to look superfluous to some budgets. So, in essence, Zoom has two choices: get even deeper into how businesses work or risk being cut out altogether. It has surely seen what happened to Slack and is trying to avoid the same fate.
But if Zoom wants to take on not just Teams and Meet but also Office and Workspace as a whole, it’s going to have to be ready for a long, expensive brawl. Google, even with its suite of wildly popular free tools like Gmail and Google Docs, has spent years toiling to steal enterprise market share away from Microsoft and is still only doing so in tiny chunks. Few companies can afford to even join the fight, much less carve out any real market share for themselves.
That’s not to say Zoom couldn’t have interesting new ideas in these spaces, by the way. There’s been an explosion of interesting new calendar apps recently, from companies like Calendly, Daybridge, and Cron. They brought some new ideas into the email space last year, and Superhuman continues to be well-liked in tech circles, though most users would probably argue email is in dire need of some innovative attention. Whether Zoom is the right company to do it is hard to know — it would certainly be the most out-there thing Zoom has tried in recent years.
But it does raise the question: what does Zoom really want to be? For a while, it looked like it was becoming the internet’s underlying video infrastructure, powering everything from conferences to yoga classes. Now, thanks to web standards like WebRTC, great video is easier and cheaper than ever. So Zoom seems to be pivoting back to being a work tool — and, if it has its way, one that’s used for much more than video.