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Google Hangouts Dresses Up For Business

Google is making Hangouts part of Google Apps for Business to enhance the appeal of its cloud communications platform.

Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
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Google plans to add Hangouts to its Google Apps for Business suite and to enhance its Chromebox for meetings conferencing system in an effort to provide business customers with a more comprehensive platform for communications and collaboration.

Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Chrome for Business, says in a phone interview that Google's business customers are looking to buy a full suite of products rather than piecemeal apps.

"In the early days, we were really focused on email and messaging," says Sheth. "We're hitting the second act in the enterprise, expanding to every part of the stack."

That's perhaps inevitable given that the company's biggest rival for business customers, Microsoft, made its fortune selling software by the suite, specifically Microsoft Office. Go suite, or go home.

Software suites -- bundled apps that interoperate to some extent -- also represent a hedge against app commodification. Anyone can write an email client or a video conferencing app. But replicating multiple, loosely bound apps becomes tougher, particularly when they're tied to cloud services.

Adding Hangouts to Google Apps for Business isn't merely an exercise in bundling. It's an effort to convince business customers that the video conferencing platform can support the weight of an enterprise. As part of Google Apps for Business, Hangouts will now be covered by Google's service level agreement (SLA) -- 99.9% uptime, anytime phone support, and assorted certifications. It will also work with all Google account types.

[Google cares about more than search. Read Google Moonshot Project: Healthy Bodies.]

That means using Hangouts no longer requires a Google+ Profile. While some may see that as a sign Google is backing away from Google+, Allan Livingston, product manager for Hangouts, says in a phone interview that Google remains "committed to bringing Google+ to enterprise, but it's a complicated product that touches a lot of areas." He says Google has to make Google+ compliant with various certifications before it's ready for enterprise customers. Google is also to bring Google Apps Vault support to Hangouts by the end of the year, he says.

Several additions to Chromebox for meetings should make Google's video conferencing hardware more easily administered and more useful to a broader set of potential customers. The new features include the ability to connect two monitors to one Chromebox, the ability to dial out from a Chromebox, and the ability to remotely start, mute, or hang up on a meeting from a Google Apps Admin Console.

What's more, Google is partnering with Blue Jeans to allow people using H.323 or SIP-based videoconferencing systems to connect to Hangouts, and with InterCall to allow Hangouts participation via audio bridge.

Finally, Chromebox for meetings will be more widely available. Google will soon offer Chromebox for meetings in Japan and the UK, following previous launches in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

"The more things change, the more people like to have face-to-face meetings," says Sheth.

And if you can't be there in person, perhaps videoconferencing is the next best thing.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 7:04:40 AM
Re: chrome for business
Google hangouts is great business weapon. It's easy to use and rather straightforward. Google should add it to its business apps fleet. The first time I used it is when I interviewed a position in Google. Although I did not finally get the offer, I started to love this tool.:-)
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 4:56:57 PM
Re: chrome for business

It will happen eventually.

There are some Bugs in hangouts even today that need to be ironed out effectively.

When that happens It will go Live on Chrome as well.

User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 5:35:30 AM
chrome for business
I only recently started using Google's new Chrome for business platform and was surprised to find that the apps package did not include hangouts. As a regular user of Google's many products, I had expected that the addition of hangouts, especially video chats, would have been an obvious addition. I somehow worked out a way (it's a little complex) to intergrate some features of the hangouts to the enterprise suite but this new move will definitely make my life way much easier than it currently is.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2014 | 5:47:05 PM
Re: Is this a Joke?
BTW.. this is the message I received from Enterprise Support earlier today. 


Hello Douglas,

Thank you for your time over the phone and for your patience. I tried to call you back, but could not connect. I understood that you have noticed there are Hangouts features available without a Google+ profile. You have tried to make a conference video call, but you get an error stating that Google+ has to enabled for at least one user.

I need to inform you that Hangouts conference video calls are available without a Google+ profile, but as Hangouts are currently associated with Google+, you need to have Google+ service enabled in the Admin Console.

I truly understand that you need to prevent the users from creating Google+ accounts, so I would do my best to request making Hangouts a separate service, not depending on Google+.

The Help Center article below provides some useful information about Hangouts if you are interested:

Do not hesitate to contact me back for any further assistance needed regarding this issue. I will be more than glad to help.

Have a nice day!

Google Enterprise Support
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2014 | 5:41:14 PM
Re: Is this a Joke?
I hope your information is better than mine.  Did you correspond with your Google account manager or someone from support?  Clearly the support team told me that enabling Google+ was a requirement, but the user didn't have to 'jon' / create a Google profile.  I did test this and it was accurate.


Thanks for the info.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 5:35:14 PM
Re: Is this a Joke?
Google tells me that the removal of the Google+ requirement is still being rolled out, so I'd suggest trying again in a day or two. The person I corresponded with also said that support has been apprised of this issue, so at least they will know how to respond if it comes up again.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 5:15:01 PM
Re: Is this a Joke?
I think one of Google's biggest problems is the way different generations of its technology trip over each other. Just the authentication of a business versus personal account has become horribly complicated and cumbersome.

Amazing how fast new technology turns into legacy technology.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2014 | 1:36:57 PM
Is this a Joke?
It's not April fools day, but it feels like it.  I just tried the new features in our Google Apps for Business Account.  It didn't work, I called customer support.  They indicated the only way for this to work was to enable Google + for my users.  They were quick to say that the users didn't necessarily need to create a Google+ profile, but the Google+ service needed to be on nonetheless.

My company, like many, have not turned on Google+ for a reason -- we don't want our employees creating Google+ profiles.  We do, however, want the additional features of Hangouts.  Now I must turn on the service for Google + and 'tell' my employees not to create a Google+ account, there is no way to administratively (via Google Admin) block a user from creating their own Google+ profile.

Either the support team is wrong, or this is a huge oversight on Google's part.  Google please allow my users to use the feature rich version of Hangouts without the requirement that users be enabled to create Google + profiles.
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