As reviled as it may be, email refuses to die. You can limit your after-hours inbox habit or even ban email on Fridays, but this bedrock of digital communication is not going anywhere yet. As denizens of the hyper-connected, always-on professional world, the best we can hope for is messaging that’s cleaner, smarter, and more useful.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of tech giants taking a crack at the problem.
Google is the latest such behemoth. Starting today, Google’s popular Inbox app will start to become available to companies using Google Apps, according to TechCrunch. After letting consumer Gmail users kick the tires on Inbox for the last four months, Google is apparently now comfortable enough to let enterprises test it out.
Google Inbox attempts to reimagine email with a simplified, decluttered interface and algorithmic intelligence that organizes messages more intuitively than the standard reverse-chronological list. Like the consumer version, Inbox for Google Apps will be made available to companies slowly, on an invite-only basis.
Users of Dropbox’s Mailbox will recognize the core concept of Inbox. But Google and Dropbox are far from the only tech companies determined to reboot professional communication software. Amazon recently launched WorkMail, a cloud email service that takes aim at Microsoft and Google in the enterprise market. For its part, IBM is hoping that IBM Verse, its new suite of collaboration tools, can overhaul our fraught relationship with email using a data-driven approach, eventually infusing its Watson artificial intelligence technology directly into your inbox. For IBM, Verse comes in addition to a slew of productivity apps born out of a unique partnership with Apple. Even Facebook is taking its notoriously productivity-killing product into the enterprise realm with its new Facebook At Work app, which is an attempt to formalize and improve upon the way some companies use Facebook internally.
This renewed interest in enterprise communication from the tech giants comes at a time when upstart Slack is exploding, riding a wave of rarely seen user affection toward the goal of disrupting office communication once and for all. The workplace chat startup, led by Flickr cofounder Stewart Butterfield and No. 10 on our list of the Most Innovative Companies of 2015, now boasts over 500,000 users and $12 million in revenue. In the first six weeks of 2015 alone, Slack’s user base has grown by 35%.
Surely Google, Microsoft, and the other tech giants focused on corporate communication are feeling the heat from startups like Slack, a company that is routinely referred to as an “email killer.” For the companies using Slack–Fast Company is among them–the cross-platform chat app is certainly whittling away at work-related inbox clutter.
Still, it’s hard to imagine any one platform reaching the ubiquity of email. So as long this necessarily evil remains, the least we can hope for is an interface that’s easy on the eyes.