It’s official. Google will pivot Hangouts to become a business-focused product instead of a consumer-focused one; therefore, the entire service now belongs to the G Suite family. The new Hangouts breaks into two experiences with unique purposes, but they exist together in a way to improve productivity for businesses across the board. While Hangouts Chat is built for device-to-device communication, Hangouts Meeting is built for group meetings. Everything is meant to make G Suite an even better value and that much more capable of being an all-in-one solution for businesses.
Back in August 2016, it was reported that Google was planning to restructure Hangouts. That would make sense considering, up until today, too many messaging services were overlapping. The now-former version of Hangouts existed alongside Allo, Duo, Android Messages, and Spaces. We’ve seen Google cut the list of consumer-focused messaging services down to three with shutdown of Spaces last month and Hangouts’ pivot.
Hangouts is no longer meant for the average person. It’s made specifically for the working men and women of the world who are getting big things done on a daily basis.
The new communication app for business is Hangouts Chat, which is currently only open to G Suite customers enrolled in Google’s Early Adopter Program. It’s a direct competitor to Slack. With Hangouts Chat, businesses can bring employees together in a group setting and have teams separate for private conversations pertaining to work and projects.
Where Google seeks to exceed Slack’s potential is G Suite integration. Everything from Google Drive is accessible on Hangouts Chat, including files, photos, and videos for in-conversation viewing. And it’s all filtered through in-app search. Millions of business already use G Suite and Google Drive, allowing Hangouts Chat to walk into the ideal situation of securing a high number of users early on.
Something interesting, too, about this is support for Google App Script. Bots and third-party apps can be brought right into conversations on Hangouts Chat. Asana, Box, Prosperworks, and Zendesk are already working with Google to make their products live inside the new Hangouts. There’s also a Google-made bot, known as @meet, already active. The intelligent bot can understand communication with users to do things like schedule meetings on calendars.
Remember Hangouts On Air? We knew it was going away as YouTube Live would start handling live-streaming for most, but Hangouts Meet is Google’s way for video conferencing to be done without a hitch by all parties. Hangouts Meet is designed to have a “light, fast interface and smart participant management.” Not a single plugin is necessary for use on Chrome or Firefox.
The confidence in this working is so high that Google proclaims 30-person meetings are “easy” to operate. And, of course, you get G Suite integration so meeting participants’ calendars are updated simultaneously.
Jerome Knapp of Braintree said this about Hangouts Meet:
“Hangouts Meet is one of the most frictionless video conferencing systems we’ve experienced.”
Google says, while all G Suite customers will gain access to the service over the next few weeks, Hangouts Meet is available today for select users.
Even if most of us won’t get to use it any longer, we should be happy for Hangouts and its future. Google finally figured out what it wants to do with messaging, at least for businesses.