Secure business communication is essential: there are too many stories about the vulnerability of existing systems to argue with that. Post-Snowden, privacy is at the top of everyone's mind, and apps like WhatsApp fulfil that demand with secure end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
Wire is another such application, launched in 2014 to answer the question "How would a new Skype look?" (many employees have previously worked on Microsoft's communication platform, and Skype co-founder Janus Friis is a major investor).
The team identified three areas that could be improved upon from Skype: user experience, privacy and security. With that in mind, Wire was launched with E2EE on voice calls, and extended the feature to media and messaging in early 2016.
Until now the app has been focused on consumers, but has recently launched its first business product for SMBs. Founder Alan Duric told us that this has "better" control over teams and charts; more storage; the ability to transfer larger files; and same-day support response. Duric added that new features like group video calling will be added in the future.
The SMB app is only the first step; an ‘Enterprise' version - for large firms - will be launched in the first half of 2018. The major difference is that this will be able to run either on-prem or in a company's private cloud; and will be delivered to certain clients as an SDK.
Unlike the consumer edition of Wire - and its main competitor, WhatsApp - the business products are paid. Duric insists that the added functionality from the new versions of the app means that people will be willing to switch:
"From a business perspective, there are a number of aspects [that differentiate us]; WhatsApp is not really a business app. Access control means it is easy to add people [to a WhatsApp conversation] by mistake; and you can see peoples' mobile numbers even in an anonymous group. Businesses want different identifiers, such as email. WhatsApp's encryption is also dependent on the mobile number, and requires access to the address book."
Duric also criticised WhatsApp's reliance on a mobile number, making it impossible to run standalone on a desktop or tablet.
Communication is communication - from messaging to commands
The next step for Wire, Duric told us, could be a more left-field move: the company wants to make itself relevant in the IoT space, especially amongst verticals. "A message is a message," said Duric. "Sending ‘Hi, how are you?' is the same as sending a command to a car to open its door, or a firmware update."
Even though any IoT deal is in the future, Wire already has plans to support the ‘sharing economy' - it will be possible to send friends a time-limited token so that they can operate your IoT devices, like door locks or a car.
Duric thinks that the IoT will be a much larger market for Wire than communication, "but it will take some time before it gets there." He said, "We are absolutely shifting to a[n everything-as-a-]service based economy - we're maybe 50 per cent of the way there, but we won't reach 100 per cent for at least one more generation."
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