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How OpenAI Could Shape the Next Wave of Collaborative Platforms

The basic functionality of collaboration platforms hasn’t fundamentally changed since the pandemic started. These platforms enable video conferencing with desktop sharing and text chat, which added up to a reasonable facsimile of in-person collaboration — and while that’s good enough to keep teams working in concert across physical distances, is that all there is to the collaboration platform experience?

Enter Copilot. Microsoft took the lead in promoting the idea of a new wave of collaboration, where AI assistants let people prioritize which meetings they attend, how they will follow up on action items generated in those meetings, and how to use those meetings’ output in future work. That’s promising for the many knowledge workers who are meetinged-out on a daily basis — the output and follow-up to meetings may change but the collaboration experience of chatting, sharing assets and appearing via video is basically the same. The Copilot approach promises a new relationship to that experience, as well as a gain in productivity.

But now, Microsoft’s high-profile AI partner, OpenAI, seems to be making moves to grab its own share of the enterprise business, with the potential to change the meeting experience. OpenAI clearly is targeting the enterprise; last year, the company released ChatGPT Enterprise for which it now claims 600,000 users, capturing customers at 93% of the Fortune 500.

Then this week OpenAI acquired a videoconferencing startup, Multi. The move has led to speculation that the company may be looking to embed collaboration capabilities within ChatGPT. The question is whether they’ll actually try to fundamentally change the collaboration experience. Multi definitely doesn’t talk about videoconferencing the way that most companies in our space do. They describe the experience as “multiplayer,” linking it to the gaming paradigm rather than boring old work meetings. They describe themselvesas “people who hate meetings too.”

The Multi tool (which is being shut down in July with the OpenAI acquisition) is optimized for software developers’ collaboration, with an emphasis on screen sharing; the video capabilities were OEMed from Zoom. That leaves open the possibility that this is a niche play by OpenAI.

But enhanced document collaboration is a use case for teams beyond software developers, and blending this capability with AI-driven functions like summarization and then potentially linking it to one of the leading LLMs could offer a new kind of experience, one that focuses on the piece of work that everyone’s collaborating on, and does so with a new level of functionality.

Of course, not every meeting is about a document. Some meetings are just people talking—and often those are the ones we most want to avoid. So the current model of helping people manage the role of meetings in their work life will continue to be as important as the emerging areas of focus on screensharing and video.

So where does that leave plain old video service? Do we really need meeting equity and AI directors to continue refining the experience, to get closer to the “next best thing to being there?” I think we do, because as the meeting experience continues to mature, any element of it that seems outdated will stand out more. In the end, collaboration is a multifaceted experience, and technology can help in multiple ways.