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Zoom Buys Encryption Provider Keybase, Google Offers Meet to Gmail Users, More News

May 08, 2020 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

This week, we turn yet again to the videoconferencing market and the jostling among vendors for supremacy as millions of workers are forced to work remotely. While there have been numerous contenders for the "most popular" video app title, Zoom's profile has grown more than Microsoft Teams, for example, which is restricted to Microsoft environments. However, Zoom has become as widely known for its problems as it has for its benefits.

One of those problems has been security and its lack of end-to-end encryption. Even with all the talent in the world, it would be impossible to develop end-to-end encryption in the 90-day "fix" period that CEO Eric Yuan has given the company to sort out its problems.

To solve the problem, he announced that Zoom is buying Keybase, a company that has built a secure messaging and file sharing service using its deep encryption and security expertise. According to a statement from Yuan, Zoom will integrate Keybase’s entire team into Zoom and use that team to build end-to-end encryption that can be applied to Zoom services now and as it scales up in the future.

“This acquisition marks a key step for Zoom as we attempt to accomplish the creation of a truly private video communications platform, Yuan wrote. “Our goal is to provide the most privacy possible for every use case, while also balancing the needs of our users and our commitment to preventing harmful behavior on our platform."

Today, audio and video content flowing between Zoom clients (e.g., Zoom Rooms, laptop computers and smartphones running the Zoom app) is encrypted at each sending client device. It is not decrypted until it reaches the recipients’ devices. With the recent Zoom 5.0 release, Zoom clients now support encrypting content using industry-standard AES-GCM with 256-bit keys.

In the future, Zoom will offer an end-to-end encrypted meeting mode to all paid accounts. Logged-in users will generate public cryptographic identities that are stored in a repository on Zoom’s network and can be used to establish trust relationships between meeting attendees.

There are limitations though. These end-to-end encrypted meetings will not support phone bridges, cloud recording, or non-Zoom conference room systems. Zoom Rooms and Zoom Phone participants will be able to attend if explicitly allowed by the host.

This is a major step forward for Zoom and should do a lot to revive confidence in a product that is easy to use for most people, but which was causing concerns over the privacy of data in calls, as well as around the issue of "zoom-bombing," where uninvited participants entered the calls.

It also gives it a response to the likes of Microsoft and Google, both of whom have been trying to piggy-back on the public concerns about privacy in Zoom. In fact, if this works out, it could potentially become the top videoconferencing service in both the enterprise and consumer space.

Google Offers Meet to (Nearly) Everyone

Meanwhile, Google is working away in the background to extend the reach and traction of its conferencing products in the enterprise and the consumer space. You may recall a few weeks ago Google announced it was giving users access to Google Meet through Gmail?

While that made it more accessible to people who were already signed up to both, this week's announcement means even more people than ever will be able to use it. In fact, it is open to anyone who wants to use it.

Google Meet is the video communication service developed by Google. It is one of two apps that constitute the new version of Google Hangouts, the other being Google Chat.

Until now, Meet videoconferencing was only open to G Suite enterprise and education users through G Suite. However, now anyone with a Google account, whatever that account may be, will be able to access it and create free meetings of up to 100 people.

A blog published at the end of April explained: "Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users, such as simple scheduling and screen sharing, real-time captions, and layouts that adapt to your preference, including an expanded tiled view."

Earlier this month, it opened Meet videoconferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally. This meant users would be ale able to hold larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call and offer live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain. It also enabled users to access it directly via Gmail.

Giving all Google users to access this kind of videoconferencing power is a significant development, even if not everyone wants or has a Google account. However, in the current climate where privacy and controlling conferences is now one of the major demands from customers, requiring users to open a Google account is understandable.

There are other security features too. Users of the new Meet services will only be able to add participants through calendar invites leaving those without an invite in a ‘Green Room’ until such a point as they are allowed enter the meeting by the host.

For enterprise teams, Google introduced G Suite Essentials for non-G Suite customers. This is for teams that need access to Meet’s more advanced features, such as dial-in phone numbers, larger meetings and meeting recording. G Suite Essentials includes Google Drive for easy and secure access to the team’s content, and Docs, Sheets and Slides for content creation and real-time collaboration.

The new additions to Meet come as Google announced that it has grown significantly since January. The blog explains: “Since January, we’ve seen Meet’s peak daily usage grow by 30x. As of this month, Meet is hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding roughly 3 million new users every day. And as of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million.”

OpenText to Introduce Permanent Remote Working

Elsewhere, OpenText, like many other enterprises, has sent a large part of its workforce home to work remotely. As the global health crisis continues, the company announced it will cut the salaries of its executives and other senior positions by up to 5%. Other cost-saving measures include the permanent closure of nearly half its offices, because many of its workers will continue to work remotely even when the crisis is over.

In an earnings call to investors for its Q3 results last week, Mark J. Barrenechea, OpenText CEO & CTO, told participants:

“As a result of COVID-19, OpenText is adopting a hybrid return to workplace strategy. The company will undertake a restructuring plan which will impact our global workforce and consolidate certain real estate facilities to further streamline our operations as we accelerate work from home initiatives.” The cost of the restructuring is expected to be approximately $80 million to $100 million.

However, while the financial incentives to send people home and cut down on its real estate bill are significant, Barrenechea explained the reason it is successfully happening now, is because the digital workplace technology that enables this kind of working is finally in place.

Zeal Contract Management Integrates With Box

Also this week, Zeal, which offers a free cross-platform program for Windows, Linux and BSD, announced that is has partnered with Box. The new integration with Box will allow customers to access their contract data from multiple applications through Box's vast inventory of API integrations.

This will also enable Zeal to operate as a broker of contract data for customers who need to access their contract repositories with additional auditing and accounting systems.

Zeal is a collaborative cloud-based contract management platform that uses machine learning to help companies automate contract functions, analyze contract data and build workflows that enhance compliance and accelerate sales.

Through this integration, customers will be able to seamlessly connect their existing Zeal repositories with Box as their unified cloud content management layer.

Sinch Buys SAP’s Digital Interconnect Unit

Finally this week, Sinch announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SAP’s communications unit, SAP Digital Interconnect (“SDI”).

SDI offers cloud-based communications products and serves more than 1,500 enterprise customers throughout the world. Sinch and SDI share a focus on digital business transformation, creating a first-class customer experience, and ensuring the highest possible quality of services. Sinch will acquire all assets and IP belonging to SDI.

Sinch, which has a scalable platform for messaging, voice and video, will pay $245 million for SDI (approximately $250 million USD) on a cash and debt-free basis.

The deal significantly strengthens Sinch’s customer facing, operations and product and engineering resources in the United States and gives the company a larger presence in the Bay Area where SDI is headquartered. It also grows the company’s business in Europe, Asia-Pacific and India.

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