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Microsoft, Slack et al will 'laugh their asses off' at IBM's biz messaging tool

Beta version of Toscana? It's barely an alpha, yell biz partners

By Paul Kunert, 15 Nov 2016

IBM is testing out a group chat collaboration tool branded Project Toscana, but judging by the reaction from channel partners involved in the beta, it’s not going to worry Microsoft, Slack or anyone else for a while yet.

Toscana, which will run on a browser or as an app, includes IBM’s tools in the Collaboration Platform - Sametime Chat and Advanced, Connections Files, Activities - and features include note-taking and integration of consumer type social media.

Big Blue Business Partners got together (virtually) to “play” with Toscana, and their comments were recorded and sent to El Reg.

One told us he’d spent time with a product manager and a bunch of resellers using it, and the “reaction ha[d] been quite underwhelming".

Criticism centred on the features – or rather lack of them. Even basic functions were missing; among the complaints was that there was no edit or deletion of comments, no @mentions; no emojis; no linking to prior posts; and troubles with multiple IBM ID log-ins.

The iOS app was described as operational but the Android version was branded as “the bomb”.

“If you think this is all very underwhelming, we can relate. IBM should try Slack at least once to learn about on-boarding,” said one guinea pig.

Another asked “Is this really nothing more than a dumb [web-based] chat with some API to extend from outside?”

A further chimed in: "They [IBM] promised to release [the product] by [the] end of 2016, so they really had to get it out of the door... Love all the ‘coming soon’ [notices] on the icons… what have they [IBM] been doing all year?”

Another tester said “the likes of Slack, Microsoft, etc will laugh their asses off”.

The comment threads from business partners started in late October, just before Microsoft rolled out Teams, an Office 365 chat app, on 2 November.

The Business and Enterprise editions of Teams allows users to create private or public online chats groups, use video-conferencing via Skype and link Office apps with Twitter. And there is added emoji goodness.

IBM Business Partners questioned whether Toscana was a canned demo; one said the alpha version was “more engaging but IBM played it safe”.

By definition this was “all wrong”, he added. “Alphas are incomplete products, betas are feature-complete and need testing – so this is actually an alpha”.

Another said, “I smell a very bad case of over-promise (sic) and under-deliver” (sic).

Watson Moments will also be integrated into Toscana - he wasn’t working in the beta test - but based on the sentiment from most of those involved, it’s probably just as well.

We asked IBM to comment and will update if or when we hear from them. ®

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