Slack planning voice and video chat, upping threat to Hangouts, Skype

Slack plans to roll out voice and video chat this year, making the popular messaging company even more competitive with incumbents like Microsoft's Skype and Google's Hangouts. That's according to their 2016 product roadmap, presented to customers at a conference today in San Fransisco.

TechCrunch reports:

[Voice chat] on desktop will come first, and then the company will focus on making it work on all its devices and apps. Video will have to wait until after that. Underwood noted that you can already make voice calls via Skype's Slack integration. But with its own feature, she says the use case will be "If I'm DMing someone in Slack and we want to switch to have a quick voice conversation, it addresses that problem."

Slack also plans a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor that would allow for rich text formatting, a more approachable search system, and more.

Voice and video are a big deal though. Right now, if you want to shift contexts to voice or video, you have to switch out of Slack and launch Microsoft's Skype or Google's Hangouts. That's not only a fragmented experience but chink in Slack's armor — Skype and Hangouts both offer text and audio and video chat already. Even Apple's iMessage makes it easy to switch to FaceTime audio or video and back.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

That so many people are willing to use Slack even without those features shows how compelling the existing text and picture messaging system is. If Slack can deliver integrated voice and video that's just as compelling, the competitive threat to Microsoft and Google — and perhaps to other enterprise communication tools — could be enormous.

Would you switch away from Skype or Hangouts for Slack voice and video chats? Let me know in the comments!