March 15, 2017
Slack Technologies hit the world by storm when it began offering its group messaging features with rooms and helped companies streamline team communication among employees, giving the business world a reason to celebrate. Now tech giant Alphabet, parent company of Google, is looking to break into Slack’s success in the business world by changing up its relatively unpopular Hangouts feature.
The company announced on March 9 that Google Hangouts, the video and chat system that functions similarly to Skype, would become two programs: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.
How It Works
The first would be a messaging software similar to Slack, which would offer rooms for teams to work in, integrate Google tech like Sheets, Docs and Gmail, and offer threaded conversations identical to the Gmail system, which will improve on a feature Slack has failed to improve in the past.
The latter would be an audio and video chat system that can improve video meetings, by making access into a group conversation as streamlined and easy as possible. Google promises to make Hangouts Meet more streamlined, lighter on processing and easier on battery life for customers, and offers new features like recording and a maximum of 30 participants.
The features, which will include Windows shell extension, are clearly aimed at aiding businesses looking to integrate the company’s product line into their business model. The changes promise to tackle key inconveniences in the Google Hangouts program that prevented it from ever taking off in the business or private sector.
It's a New Direction
According to The Verge, the program remained without obvious direction for several years after it was launched, with no apparent target audience and a number of inconveniences built into the program that made it difficult for individuals and companies alike to rely on it.
The end of Google Chat and decision to fully replace it with Hangouts never appeared to offer a clear purpose for the program, but now Google appears to have solved the dilemma by splitting the features into two major groups.
According to Google, the split was motivated by talking to customers, who had two key goals they wanted out of Google Hangouts, and which the original app did not adequately deliver on: quick and easy group conversation access, and the ability to quickly respond to team conversations. The company says it will offer all three features for some time, but will eventually phase out Google Hangouts in favor of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat.
The new features should allow for easy company-wide integration along with the rest of its features, which helps it tap into the business market and attract the attention of companies looking for easy, streamlined features that employees can easily access from anywhere and with their mobile devices.
Let the Competition Begin
The options will compete not only with Slack but with Microsoft Teams, another Slack competitor that promises to earn a fair share of the business market.
The feature is currently only available for early adopters, and Google has remained relatively mum about which features will be freely available to individual users and which will come with cost upgrades, however, the announcement indicates a strong direction for the company and a direct challenge to Slack’s control on team communication. It promises to be a viable competitor if it lives up to the hype.
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