Amazon is ramping up to compete seriously with Microsoft and Google in Work Technology

Building out a deep capability in work technologies as a complement to AWS is a really smart strategy.

I predicted in Some (Expanded) Predictions, 2017 that Amazon would demonstrate its commitment to the work technology arena by acquiring Slack for $35B. Well, that hasn’t happened yet. However, the word is leaking out that Amazon is getting much more serious about work technology, especially following the release of Amazon Chime this month, the company’s video/audio conferencing app (with work chat as well!).

Image for post
Image for post
Amazon Chime

Keven McLaughlin wrote about Amazon’s plans, yesterday:

Kevin McLaughlin, AWS Taking On Microsoft, Google with Productivity Suite

AWS is working on upgrades to its WorkMail email-calendar app and its WorkDocs file storage-collaboration app to make them more attractive to corporate customers, according to two people who do business with the company. AWS has also told some large corporate customers it’s considering bundling these apps with its recently launched Chime video conferencing apps into a new productivity app suite that will compete with Google G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, according to a person who’s been briefed on the cloud unit’s plans.


AWS started selling WorkDocs (formerly called Zocalo) in 2014 and WorkMail in January 2016. But the services haven’t sold well because they’re difficult to use and aren’t as advanced as offerings from Google, Microsoft and others, according to three AWS business partners.

WorkDocs has suffered from a lack of support resources and scant documentation on how to use the service effectively, said one of the AWS business partners who has used WorkDocs. AWS has been slow to add key functions to WorkMail, like the ability to save all emails sent and received through the service, which is a regulatory compliance requirement for companies in industries like finance and health care, said another AWS business partner who has used WorkMail. (AWS added this functionality to WorkMail in November.)

AWS doesn’t currently offer an online word processing app that lets groups of people collaborate on documents, as Google Docs and Microsoft’s online Word do. It’s not clear if AWS plans to develop its own online word processing app, said the AWS business partners. A recent update to the AWS AppStream service, which lets companies access desktop apps running in AWS from any kind of device, could fill this gap, said one of the AWS partners.

Building out a deep capability in work technologies as a complement to AWS is a really smart strategy, and there’s a lot of play against the duopoly of Google and Microsoft.

I really recommend getting Butterfield’s Slack into the mix, and building around that soaring ecosystem.

On the document ‘productivity’ app side of things, the new innovation around apps like Dropbox Paper, Box Notes, and Salesforce Quip has spread out to a bunch of smaller start-ups. Notables include,, and Dossier, and Amazon could take on one or two of those as a start of a new set of design principles to restart what should be called ‘progressivity’ not productivity apps. They’ll need presentation and spreadsheet tools, too, but maybe build all that as corners of one big set of capabilities. So that tables can exist in a doc all by themselves, or embedded with text and images. And any page or set of pages can be ‘presented’, so rather than a standalone Powerpoint alternative, presentation is just an activity, not an app.

And lastly, the lowly calendar is tightly bound in the world of progressivity, closely allied with email. But Amazon might want to look at innovations like Meetingbird, Solid, and Sunsama, for innovative approaches to calendaring that focus on the use cases of effective meetings, with agendas, invitations, decisions, and action items, and not just 30 boxes on a canvas.

I’m eager to talk to the folks at Amazon, and see what’s on their minds. More to follow.

Originally published at

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store