A number of recent Microsoft apps, like Sway and Delve, have sought to meld the features of various pieces of Office software. The company’s new Project Gigjam, though, goes a bit further: It customizes a version of itself to help Microsoft’s business customers collaborate.
On the surface, Gigjam looks like a screen-sharing application, where employees can work together to help share information. But Gigjam can pull data from multiple applications into a shared workspace, sharing all or parts of it with employees. That’s the nature of work, according to chief executive Satya Nadella: “How do we do something like that task as opposed into going into each application.”
Microsoft launched the project at its World Partner Conference, a multiday event in Orlando where the software giant works with some of its largest customers. With the launch of Windows 10 just weeks away, Nadella’s message said Microsoft wanted to help businesses redefine how they work, a process he called ‘business transformation.’
“This is a glimpse of what can happen when we break down the walls between devices, applications, and people, and bring them together,” Nadella said.
Why this matters: Microsoft has pursued some interesting projects in the past, like Sway and Delve, that have broken free of the constraints of individual apps. While it seems a bit pat to say that Gigjam does the same with people and teams, there’s some interesting work being done here. Whether Microsoft can adapt this flexibility to the dynamic and often very specific problems teams face on a daily basis, however, remains to be seen.
How Gigjam works
To show how Gigjam works, Microsoft executives showed off a scenario where a key customer was in danger of walking away from a business partner. The same technology could also be used to help teens coordinate among themselves which clothes to buy—and to rope in a parent who controlled the budget, according to a Gigjam product page.
Julia White, who helps market Microsoft’s Office suite, called Gigjam “an empty canvas that I can fill [up] with the information I need.” Gigjam created a space where White could pull in relevant customer information from Microsoft Dynamics, then relevant email that described the relationship. White did all this orally, using Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant both as a tool and a filter for the relevant information.
White was then able to share the information with a colleague on an iPhone and then to a Surface Hub, simply by circling the relevant information and then sharing it with the appropriate person. She also had two options: “share with me,” and “work with me,” where the latter allowed actual collaboration. In any instance, White had the option to ‘X” out a piece of data or an email, leaving sensitive information private and unshared.
In the live demo, the colleague misinterpeted a casual comment by White to “share it with me” as the actual command, indicating that Microsoft may have to rejigger its language. The app also failed to collaborate on a few occasions.
According to White, each instance of Gigjam creates its own “mini app,” sharing just the information that each chooses to contribute, and even allowing some control over the user interface. “We would have wasted half a day chasing the right people and making sure they were on the right page,” White said. “I was able to divvy up the work—not the communications—but the work tasks themselves.”
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As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.