Protocol | Enterprise

Why Atlassian is a wild card in Microsoft and Salesforce's bid to own workplace collaboration

The company is in the midst of a difficult cloud transition. But co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes has a plan to win.

​Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes is leading the company's transition.

Photo: Atlassian

Atlassian has increasingly been sandwiched between two sides of the software industry: application providers that target specific job functions and platform providers that aim to support broad collaboration within an enterprise.

Now, it's wading deeper into the latter, which means taking on Microsoft and Salesforce even more directly. Its latest product releases expand its offerings outside the world of IT and begin to bring together its disparate application suite into a common dashboard.

Among the announcements the company is making at its Team 2021 conference that kicks off on Wednesday is the launch of Jira Work Management, which takes Atlassian's popular service for developers and expands it to HR, finance and other departments. It's also announcing Team Central, a repository of sorts for employees to check items like project statuses and weekly team priorities.

Combined, it's a bid to facilitate deeper interdepartmental collaboration, which is effectively what Teams and Slack are trying to own. The difference, according to co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, is that those two companies will only serve as the entry point to get to the deeper work that occurs on apps like those Atlassian sells.

"These are connection applications. They're a signal that things can move through and you can do slightly more things in them," he told Protocol. "But the idea that your world of work is going to change from a browser to Slack" or Teams isn't true, Cannon-Brookes added.

It's a reflection of the next stage of the battle over collaboration software. As Microsoft and Slack angle to keep users on their respective messaging services as much as possible, application providers like Atlassian are increasingly adding native features that promise to draw users away.

But in Atlassian's case, the company has had both organizations in its sights for years. Some products are very similar. Atlassian, for example, acquired data visualization firm Chartio in February, a deal that positions the company to offer something akin to Microsoft's productivity graphs.

There's also the backdrop of Atlassian trying, and failing, to build its own messaging service with HipChat and Stride, which ended with Atlassian selling those services to Slack in exchange for a stake in the company. It's unclear how that relationship might change as Salesforce, which has some applications that compete with Atlassian's, prepares to absorb Slack.

Even Atlassian's motto — to "unleash the potential of every team" — is a hop, skip and a jump away from Microsoft's recent ad campaign.

For now, Atlassian continues to rely on Teams and Slack as key ways to reach customers. Its new conversational ticketing system it acquired last year, Halp, is built for both. And it's taking a similar approach to both Slack and Microsoft by making integration a priority, a key feature for the future as the number of application providers explodes.

"With the SaaS landscape as it is, we are all going to need to learn a lot more about integration than we ever have," said Cannon-Brookes.

Cloud transition

Part of that is due to Atlassian needing to focus on overcoming its own internal struggles. Despite a blockbuster year and a rosy outlook — the company saw sales increase 33% to $1.6 billion last year, and plans to hire 1,000 workers — Atlassian faces the difficult task that other legacy application vendors are also grappling with: how to move customers quickly to the cloud.

"Our largest investment right now is making sure we can handle all of our customers in the cloud," Chief Revenue Officer Cameron Deatsch told Protocol.

It's a journey that Cannon-Brookes recognizes will take multiple years. While Atlassian has made progress in navigating that challenge, it hit a stumbling block in its most recent quarter. Revenue in the three months through March is now expected to hit as high as $572 million, better than the company previously outlined. But a portion of that surge was due to a sharp increase in sales of on-premise licenses, a phenomenon that Cannon-Brookes attributes to the rush among users to purchase before a looming price increase and the elimination of some on-premise versions of its software.

"It's not a concern," he said. "We understand this transition is not going to be linear."

To support that transition, Atlassian spent years rearchitecting many of its products to one common, cloud-based platform supported by AWS, a move that Cannon-Brookes says enabled the company to more quickly develop new products.

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

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Gaurav Kataria
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Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

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