Microsoft announced on Thursday that anyone can get into the private beta of its new GigJam productivity service, which is designed to help teams of people collaborate in real time over the Internet.
GigJam combines data from a variety of services, including Microsoft's own Office 365, as well as Trello, Dropbox and Salesforce. Users can bring that information into a shared workspace, allowing them to work together.
Users can easily redact part of the information they're sharing with other people, meaning they can selectively share only what needs to be seen in order to get a job done.
There's no way around it: GigJam is a kind of wacky product Microsoft has built to help people get work done together. But what's interesting is that it's emblematic of the company's current approach to the productivity market -- focused on letting people quickly and independently collaborate across different services while maintaining a secure environment.
Here's how it works: One user starts a "gig" and then pulls in information from whatever services are needed, like email, Salesforce, Office documents and Asana tasks. That information shows up as a card inside GigJam, where the first user can highlight some information, redact other information and then send the whole bundle off to someone else for review or editing.
The second person sees only the information that's being shared with him, so he's not able to access other parts of the information that the Gig's originator has in front of her.
It's a good way to keep focused on the task at hand (like editing only one slide out of a PowerPoint presentation). It also enables workers to more easily team up with people outside of their organizations, like suppliers and contractors, who shouldn't be privy to some information.
The GigJam interface combines a bunch of interesting input methods. Users can work entirely with a keyboard and mouse, but they can also interact with gigs using touch and voice input. The service is a bundle of different modern capabilities, and in demos it looks like something out of the future.
GigJam's radical differences from other collaboration products, like Slack, email, Yammer and SharePoint, could make it unique and powerful, but those difference could also end up being its undoing. Plenty of companies have bet on innovative productivity services that ended up being less popular than expected. The epic failure of Google Wave comes to mind.
Right now, GigJam is available on Windows and Mac. A beta of an iOS version is coming soon. Users can sign up for the private beta here, and Microsoft says everyone who requests an invitation will get one. People who requested an invitation to the beta before now should have one waiting in their inboxes.