Google's powerful, free videochat service may be a business meeting alternative to GoToMeeting or Skype--under very controlled circumstances.
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When you share a document or application through Hangouts with Extras, that application image replaces the videofeed from your camera, allowing you to talk through your interactions with whatever application you choose to share or demonstrate.
Keller, another former Microsoft employee now on faculty with the master's in digital media program at the University of Washington, said Hangouts fits perfectly into an academic environment, where open collaboration and acceptance of change are the norm. In other organizations, there will likely be security concerns and reservations about doing business over a free public service. "I'm not saying this is for everyone," he said. "I don't think that's the case."
Harold Carey Jr., an online learning and social media consultant, thinks Hangouts is likely to catch on among small businesses as an alternative to online meeting tools like GoToMeeting for those who don't want to pay the monthly subscription fee. Hangouts would be good for "contacting all your salespeople and getting them together to announce new products," he said. "It probably has 90% of the features of a WebEx or GoToMeeting."
Overall, Carey said, "it works pretty great, but sometimes if there are a lot of people in there, there are problems."
Eventually, as Google+ develops into an enterprise social networking extension of Google Apps, business users may be able to count on a richer set of features for scheduling and conducting online meetings, along with greater assurances of security and reliability. When that happens, businesses will probably have to pay for services that go beyond the free consumer level. But it's early, yet. So far, the greatest business success stories related to Hangouts have been about seeking publicity, rather than conducting private meetings.
Consider the story of musician Daria Musk, whose practice of conducting concerts over Google+ Hangouts helped win her a worldwide audience. Her experience helped lead to the creation of the Hangouts on Air version.
"The main first recipients of business benefits from Hangouts are flourishing artists," said Ron Jackson, a broadcast and online video consultant. Besides Daria Musk, he points to Cliff Roth, an artist who has built a businesses around doing "Speedpaints" of people he connects with through Hangouts. Portrait subjects who like the sketch can buy a more finished version from him.
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