July 30, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

There’s an elephant or two in the room for the meetings industry and the latest move by Zoom as it seeks to maintain a lead over Microsoft Teams in the online meeting space with the introduction of in-meeting technologies via Zoom Apps.

It promises everything from productivity software, event management and social connectivity to team building, games, wellness – even meditation, while you outwardly appear to be participating in that Zoom meeting.

I’ve been a technology writer since the early 1980s and there have always been the naysayers who suggest face-to-face meetings are dinosaurs waiting to become extinct in the face of flash new technologies.  Teleportation anyone?

Zoom claims 300 million daily users of its online meeting platform and earlier this year Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said 145 million daily active users were on Teams.  That is clearly not world domination – OECD estimates the global population of working age individuals is just over five billion – but their user base has grown exponentially during the pandemic.  It is also reflected in their share price.

Zoom is even allowing you more real estate on the screen to collaborate, with the ability to expand and collapse the Apps side panel, open your app in a new window, and switch between multiple Zoom Apps in use at the same time.

In an interview with the BBC last week, the Zoom Apps boss, Ross Mayfield, was asked whether users were getting bored with Zoom.

“This is unlocking a different level of creativity using our developer partners to create all types of different experiences that can be more engaging and fun.  This is important because the world is turning back to a hybrid workplace. We are going to remain remotely connected with people,” Mayfield said.

He said Zoom was working with game developers who are designing games “specifically for team building exercises, icebreakers and kind of keeping that social connectivity in the changing world.”

Mayfield said while Zoom had a marketplace with 1,500 apps developed by third party developers, “…this is the first time we are allowing apps to be able to be created for use within the Zoom experience and there’s something really interesting that happens when you open up a platform with performant video and the quality and experience that everybody knows from Zoom and you are doing it at such a scale of 300 million daily meeting participants. I think it is going to have an impact that is highly competitive”.

It is difficult to imagine the Microsoft behemoth standing still in the face of Zoom’s threat, given the vast ecosystem of their apps. But could that ever replace the human need to press the flesh? Maybe there’s an app for that.