Campfire, HipChat and other group chat platforms are popular with distributed work teams because of the ability to communicate in real time via a web browser or mobile app. Cotap, a free iPhone app that launched Tuesday, takes a different tack by forgoing the browser element, opting instead to be a simple group texting app for work that you use primarily on your phone.
"We want to be actually easier than texting," says Cotap CEO Jim Patterson, a former Yammer executive with a background in mobile communication and enterprise software.
Patteron notes that while other platforms have focused on creating rooms or groups as well as sharing files, most business communication platforms don't focus first on mobile.
Unlike consumer mobile messaging apps such as GroupMe, that require you to manually create groups and add contacts, Cotap scans your phone's address book for anyone with the same work email domain as you, using those addresses to automatically populate your company's address book inside Cotap. As a result, the next person from yourcompanydomain.com to start using Cotap will have one-tap texting access to not only the company email domains in his own address book but also the ones imported into Cotap by anyone else who uses the same work domain, as well as anyone whose email address is associated with a meeting scheduled with Cotap.
Cotap users will receive push notifications on their iPhone's lock screen every time a Cotap message comes in and will also see all the messages associated with groups they're included in within the app. Those who don't have the Cotap app will see the messages as an email thread. The advantage of Cotap is that co-workers can message each other's phones without needing their cell phone numbers, which not everyone wants to share with office mates.
The app is free for employees to use, and Patterson says the company plans to make money at some point by selling premium features to enterprises.
A couple of minor caveats: Folks who use consumer email platforms such as Gmail or Yahoo can't use Cotap, and it's not launching out of the box with an Android variant. Patterson says one is in the works and should be ready within a few months.