Google is making some big changes with its Hangouts app. On Thursday, March 9, Google split the app into two: a video chat service called Hangouts Meet, and a team-messaging service called Hangouts Chat.
Those who want to join a video conference can click on a link shared within Google Calendar or Gmail. They will also have to dial designated dial-in number to get in. No additional apps or plug-ins are required to use Hangouts Meet. Google says its video conferences can hold up to 30 people. The service is also integrated with Google’s Chromebox for Meetings, according to TechCrunch.
“It’s an antidote to the (video conferencing) fatigue that’s stopped my users and executives from taking full advantage of other systems,” Braintree executive Jerome Knapp said in a Google blog post announcing Hangouts Meet.
These new changes are very similar to another app: Slack. Google wants to get in line with Microsoft, which launches next with its chat called Teams, which is used on Microsoft 365, reports USA Today.
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Google wants its users to take advantage of its Microsoft alternative, G Suite, the company’s collection of cloud-based, team-oriented apps. G Suite offers a variety of packages starting at $5 per month.
The other half of Google Hangouts is the Chat feature, which is also similar to Slack. It allows users to create virtual rooms for projects or teams. Users can share content via Google Docs and Google Drive, along with pictures and video.
Google also created a “@meet” bot that schedules a team meeting based on everyone’s availability through the Google Calendar. Google is reportedly wanting to work with Asana, Box, Prosperworks, and Zendesk to help flesh out the Google Hangouts Chat platform.
Hangouts Meet is available now. However, Google will roll it out to all its G Suite customers within the next few weeks. Hangouts Chat is still available to G Suite customers, but only if they apply through an “early adopter program” in which they give feedback.
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According to CIO, Google currently has nine different messaging apps, such as Google Messenger, Google Chat, Google Voice, Allo, Duo, and the Spaces group-sharing app. The number of messaging apps can get confusing, even for its users.
“The number of apps can certainly be confusing but having two distinct apps for chat and video conferencing is well-aligned with how individuals and teams communicate within organizations,” Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst of 451 Research told CIO. “The key element here is the tight integration between all the different applications within G Suite which allow for seamlessly switching from a chat conversation into a video call.”
While Google’s Hangouts update is similar to Slack, Martinez assures that “Google is doing its own thing.”
“Google is leveraging its capabilities in machine learning and artificial intelligence to build intelligence and automation into its productivity applications and continues to better integrate social features to cater to team collaboration as well as personal productivity.”
Google’s messaging apps and updates can be confusing. But it’s clear that the company is finally cracking down that Hangouts is a big part of its corporate enterprise band and Allo/Duo are its consumer communication apps.
Why did the tech giant want to split Hangouts into two? Google Drive’s Scott Johnston explained the reason for the new implementation.
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“What we found in talking to our enterprise customers, they really thought of two key entry points,” Johnston said. “One is: just get me into the meeting — I want to jump on and have a conversation. And they want to respond quickly to conversations that are going on within their team. So there are two app entry points, but they are the same family.”
It’s clear that Chat and Meet are focused on executives only. However, Google is aware that it may attract some consumers as well. Regular Gmail users may find these updates useful for their own productive needs.
“We know that people use Hangouts for work in the consumer space, so it’ll be offered for them,” Johnston concluded.
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