The world of workplace communication services is as cut-throat as the actual workforce, and today Google is rolling out a massive Hangouts overhaul to better compete with every other service vying for top spot.
More than just a somewhat-casual chat client now, Google wants to position Hangouts as the go-to enterprise chat offering through which you collaborate with colleagues no matter where you are in the world.
Hangouts has essentially split into two experiences: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat.
Hangouts Meet is a revamped take on video conferencing, one that features faster and more seamless connectivity. You can join a video call from a Calendar invite or via a shared link – no more logging out of and into the right account (happens to us all the time) or needing the proper plug-ins, Google says.
Up to 30 people can join a VC, and a lighter interface should help presentations and confabs run more smoothly. Presenting in full screen comes native, and because Meet taps into G Suite, any pertinent meeting details you've notated in Calendar are automatically ported over.
G Suite Enterprise members are also treated to a dedicated dial-in phone number when using Meet.
Google tells us Meet is rolling out gradually starting today, and all G Suite customers will see it in the coming weeks. While Meet and Chat are designed for G Suite customers (read: you'll need to pay for a G Suite plan), we're also told there will be freemium versions of both applications.
As for Hangouts Chat, it's basically Google's take on Slack. The app super -chargers the current Hangouts platform, but now features rooms, threaded conversations and G Suite integration.
The latter allows for content from Drive, Docs, and photos and videos to be viewed within a chat stream. There's also search, which lets you go back in the conversation history to find what you're looking for (Slack users will be familiar with this feature).
Particularly interesting additions are Chat's support of bots and ability to integrate with third-party apps, giving users access to more services beyond Hangouts' walls. Asana, Box, Prosperworks and Zendesk are working with Google on expanding the platform.
And just as Slack has slackbot, Hangouts Chat features its own bot in the form of @meet. Recognizing natural language and tapping into machine learning, @meet can set up meetings for you via Meet and Google Calendar.
Hangouts Chat is available in the Early Adopter Program via a closed beta, where it will stay for a while, we're told. Customers can apply to join the beta, or wait for Chat's full roll out down the road.
- We rank the best laptops of the year