Google Pushes Hangouts in a more Corporate Direction with Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat
If you ask anyone to sum up Google’s messaging strategy, then you’ll probably draw a blank stare. We’ve tried to come up with an answer ourselves, and have found that quite difficult. What started off with one app trying to provide a convenient messaging platform evolved into several different apps trying to compete for different (but often overlapping) sets of users, but then failing to deliver some key functionality that hinders their adoption.
Amidst all of the messaging struggles, Hangouts is the one app that has seen the least amount of attention from Google in recent times. But today, Google has surprised us all by announcing a new purpose for the Hangouts platform in the form of Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.
Hangouts is now getting an overhaul that turns the service into a more powerful Slack-competitor. The newfound corporate and enterprise direction focuses on building communication tools that help teams connect over video and chat in a more organized and collaborative fashion.
Hangouts Chat is an “intelligent” communication app that takes direct messaging in Hangouts and evolves it in a fashion that will better suit teams. The new Hangouts Chat application will still allow for one-one-one chats, but it will also have dedicated virtual rooms that can be created for each project along with threaded conversations to allow for teams to follow the progress of a project more easily. It will also work natively on web, Android, and iOS to cover all platform needs.
Hangouts Chat is also banking on integration with other Google services to entice corporate users. The deep integration with Google Docs and Sheets means that not only can one preview content directly inside Chat, but one can also assign document permissions automatically based on the team that created them. The Search functionality inside Hangouts Chat will let users filter by rooms, people, file types, and even links inside chat rooms, dating all the way back to the start of the project.
Hangouts Chat also supports enterprise tools in the form of simple scripting tools using Google App Script from bots to other third party integrations. One such example of a bot created by Google itself is ‘@meet’, which employs natural language processing and machine learning to look at everybody’s schedule in a group chat and automatically suggest a meeting time and then schedule it directly in Google Calendar for everyone. Google has listed some companies that it is teaming with to build the platform including Asana, Box, Prosperworks, and Zendesk. Expect some more integration opportunities in the future.
As told to the The Verge, some of the business features would be limited to G Suite customers. For other regular users coming in from Gmail, Hangouts Chat will follow a freemium model, although The Verge did not state which features would cost money.
The new update is also extending over to video chat functionality in Hangouts. With the new Hangouts Meet, Google is focusing on simplifying video chat and making it lighter on resources.
Video calls now can now be started with a simple shared link. Guests who have not been specifically invited but given access through the shared link can “knock” and ask to join the conversation. The light-weight application allows for up to 30 participants. Users on Chrome and Firefox also do not need to download any additional plugins to access Meet. Enterprise customers will also get a dial-in number to allow them to stay connected despite potential WiFi and data connection issues. Of course, as Meet also integrates with G Suite, information on meetings is pulled directly from Calendar.
Hangouts Meet is generally available today and will gradually roll out to all G Suite customers over the next few weeks. You can also download the Android app now from the Google Play Store. Hangouts Chat is available only for G Suite customers in the Early Adopter Program.
What are your thoughts on Google’s new Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet? Do you like the new purpose and direction given to Hangouts? Let us know in the comments below!
Source: Google Blog Source: The Verge