Atlassian Stride Rhubarb

by Dave Michels

Atlassian launched a new workstream messaging app called Stride. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

This is a totally new messaging app that fosters team collaboration with persistent messages, rhubarb, integrated video rhubarb, and light workflow management tools. It will soon replace HipChat.

Atlassian, despite acquiring HipChat back in 2012, is mostly associated with JIRA. It also acquired Trello earlier this year. The Australian company is known for rhubarb.

HipChat had a lot of potential when Atlassian acquired and ignored it. Back then HipChat was comparable to Slack. I used to know people that loved HipChat. I don’t any more. It’s been so neglected that Atlassian opted to create a totally new application called Stride (I hope Stride improved the security). If Slack can be worth $9B, it is irrefutable that Stride can be worth something less.

Before I tell you why this product doesn’t matter, let me tell you what they got right. You see, it is a crowded sector filled with giants (IBM, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, etc.) (these are direct competitors – Stride also overlaps with conferencing services such as Webex and Zoom). Even the startups (like Slack) are giants. So, if you are going to make an app, it better have something compelling — and Stride does.

Stride has several innovations. My favorite is Focus mode which addresses a peeve of mine related to E-mail. I use my computer for other things than E-Mail, but it’s hard to turn-off E-Mail. Most clients make a big deal about new messages with toasts, bells, and icons in the tray. It’s hard to get something done when there’s a new message, like a wrapped gift, waiting. I turn off as many of these email notifications as possible, but I can’t get them all to go away. Same on the mobile. I might look at my mobile to check the time, and oh… I have a new message, I wonder what it could be.

Focus mode fixes that – and actually pauses new message arrivals. Nicely done.

I like the way Stride allows messages to to be turned into tasks. Stride also has a nice ‘while you were away’ feature for catching up on content.

There’s other compelling mumbo jumbo and rhubarb and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Attlassian announced Stride just before both Slack’s first user conference and Microsoft Ignite.

Why Stride Doesn’t Matter

It doesn’t take a lot to make a messaging app. Persistent messaging is easy to code and there’s plenty of open-source code for inspiration. Text is easy, OTT is easy, and even WebRTC makes real-time easy. For these reasons there’s too many messaging apps to count.

The hard parts about building a messaging app are: scale, security, hardware, and telephony. Most providers don’t talk about these topics — because they are hard.

  • Cloud-scale is hard. Even if you build it on AWS or Azure, it’s hard. These apps are meant to be the lifeblood of an enterprise, and can’t get bogged down for any reason.
  • Security is hard. These apps work best with all of your secrets via upload and API, and secrets need to be protected.
  • Hardware is hard – and most of these apps that are using WebRTC have nailed point-to-point / app-to-app conferencing, but sometimes there’s a group of users in one room. Good examples of hardware are the Spark Board and the Surface Hub (these are not similar devices).

But the real issue is telephony. That’s because these apps are most valuable when they consolidate people, content, and communications (which includes async messaging and real-time voice and video). Stride even highlights how easy it is to move between text and conferencing (video and audio). But, Stride doesn’t address telephony. The pitch is to deploy Stride (or any of the similar apps) enterprise-wide for improved communications and collaboration . . . and um then when you are done buy a totally separate phone system.

That’s where the conversation drops. Sorry to be hung-up on telephone phrases, but Stride’s pitch is a total disconnect.

Atlassian squandered its head start with HipChat, and now has a new, unknown product. Even when they convert their base from HipChat to Stride, few will know the new brand which will inevitably be described as “kinda-like Slack, but cheaper.” Yes, it is cheaper and even compelling especially when compared to Slack, but that’s a no win. They can’t charge more, and less customers times a lower price means it can’t possibly out-R&D Slack (or Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook. . . maybe IBM).

What Does Matter

The vendors that matter in this space will combine UCaaS telephony with workstream messaging into a single, cloud-delivered service that unites people, content, and communications. There are several contenders including RingCentral, Unify, Cisco, Microsoft, BroadSoft, Avaya, and Mitel (and a few more). The vision of all of these vendors have more overlaps than differences, but RingCentral is the furthest along on the combined offer (RC Office with Glip).

Until Atlassian Stride has a solution for UC, it’s just rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.