Google Hangouts Get Down to Business

Google has entered the big leagues with its Hangouts video chat service. Now dressed for business, it could become a formidable competitor to Microsoft and other companies offering video conferencing capabilities. However, that's only if Google manages to break its bad habit of neglecting and under-resourcing good ideas. "It is all about attention and focus," said tech analyst Rob Enderle.

Google on Wednesday unveiled a handful of new features for Google Apps for Business designed to attract more enterprise customers.

Google Hangouts, its video chat service, will be further integrated into Google’s enterprise suite, entitling Google Apps for Business customers to the same level of support they get with services like Google Drive and business-level Gmail. That means 24/7 phone support and 99.9 percent guaranteed uptime, according to Google.

In addition, Google Apps for Business customers no longer will need a Google+ account to use Hangouts.

Hangouts will be able to accommodate up to 15 participants, including customers from other video conference services such as Blue Jeans or InterCall.

Google also revealed more information about its upcoming Chromebox for meetings. It will be able to connect to two displays at a time, allowing users to see Hangout partners and a presentation at the same time.

Google is launching Chromebox for meetings in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand over the coming weeks. A Dell-made Chromebox will be available in September.

Getting Ahead of the Competition

Google’s host of new features indicate the company is eager to snag more business consumers, said Stowe Boyd, research lead at Gigaom Research.

“This is really an enterprise move, where Google is battling with Microsoft,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Now Google is making Hangouts a competitor to Lync and Skype services, in the battle for enterprise. It’s not really about new features — it’s more about Google’s shift away from Google+ as the central identity service for Google products,” Boyd maintained.

Google is heading in a smart direction, and it has put out a relatively competitive product, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. Businesses using Google Apps for Business services now have much less incentive to switch to a competitor.

“It seemed only natural that they would eventually begin focusing on companies with enhancements,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is actually one of the easiest products to use for multiple presenters or virtual meetings across multiple geographies with individuals,” he noted. “It is likely best for a virtual panel, though, rather than individual presenters and more traditional presentations.”

Seeing It Through

Google’s main challenge with this push into the enterprise collaboration space will be the same challenge it faces with many of its other products, according to Enderle.

Google has the brainpower, infrastructure and creativity to really compete against some of the more established services in the market, he said, but only if the company gives it a 100 percent effort — or close to it.

“In the end, as with most Google offerings, it is all about attention and focus,” Enderle said. “They come up with a lot of good ideas, under-resource most of them, and then lose interest over time. Without the will to drive efforts like this to success, they simply become a repository for dead good ideas over time. This will likely be another one unless they resource it.”

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at [email protected]. You can also connect with her onGoogle+.

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