3 collaboration tools vying to knock Microsoft out of the enterprise

Slack, Jive, and Symphony hope business-oriented collaboration in the Millennial style will displace Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype

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Slack, Jive, and Symphony is not the name of a new jazz band. They are startups hoping to replace Microsoft's set of established and new communication tools: Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype.

These three tools are not the only ones in the game, but unlike the rest, they focused on the enterprise and have enough funding to give Microsoft a run for its money. For each, real-time communication through instant messaging is the focus, using a social networking-style approach familiar to Millennial generation that seems to live on texting, Snapchat, and Facebook.

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Slack

Slack, just valued at nearly $3 billion, offers an eponymously-named secure messaging app for teams that features private messages to colleagues, broadcast channels for team conversations, and narrowcast channels to private groups of selected team members (such as for a project subgroup).

The app lets you share files (images, PDFs, text documents, spreadsheets, and so on) with comments attached, similar to Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. In fact, you can link to files in those services, so they're part of the Slack conversation.

Slack has apps for Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS, as well as a plugin for the Chrome browser in Linux. A Windows Phone app is under development.

Jive

Jive Software, a publicly traded company worth about $400 million, offers a set of communication and collaboration tools (including Jive-n, Jive-x, Jive Daily, and Jive Chime) that can be used separately or together as a suite.

Jive-n is a social intranet software that provides a Facebook- or Yammer-like experience for your organization.

Jive-x provides an external community for customers and partners, such as for marketing.

Jive Daily is a company news app.

Jive Chime is a secure messaging tool that offers both one-to-one and group messaging and collaboration.

Symphony

In October, this startup received $66 million in a first round of investment. It combines encrypted email and messaging into a secure messaging environment.

Symphony has been on deck as a potential replacement for Bloomberg’s messaging service in the financial services and banking sector, but it appears to be expanding other features (like video, phone, and screen sharing) that could put it in direct competition with Skype, Slack, and Jive.

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