Google+ Hangouts Ready For Business?

Google's powerful, free videochat service may be a business meeting alternative to GoToMeeting or Skype--under very controlled circumstances.
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10 Great Android Collaboration Apps
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In the long run, Jackson said, "the business possibilities are great--meetings, meetings, meetings. I'm thinking product demos. I'm thinking live one-on-ones with a client that is in jeopardy." The president of the company might not be able to visit with that shaky client in person, but he can do it by online video, Jackson said. "Business communications all work better the more facetime you have."

At the same time, Jackson is conscious of having proclaimed an imminent revolution in Internet video communications for business several times before. "Please hear me when say I think it is the future--but it is slightly in the future. I've always wanted to say it is now, now, now, and I've been burned every time I've said it," he said.

The bleeding-edge state of the technology was on display when Jackson participated in a Hangout hosted by "Good Morning America" immediately following a broadcast earlier this month that featured an interview with Vic Gundotra, the senior VP of engineering for Google+. An initial attempt to capture the videofeed and send it to the Times Square Jumbotron failed due to technical difficulties, so the online meeting didn't happen until the reporters retreated to their studio and started over.

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"They made a classic mistake--they went live before they were ready for it," Jackson said. The TV crew probably got a little too ambitious, piling complications on top of beta-quality technology. In his own tests, Hangouts is more likely to hang up when some of the participants are accessing the session from mobile devices, or when the Hangouts with Extras features are included.

So would Jackson do a business meeting on Hangouts? "Under carefully controlled conditions, yes," he said. "Most, if not all, of the participants would have to be on Ethernet--I would not trust any Wi-Fi connection--and I'd want to control the time of day that those meetings came about, trying to gauge the network traffic."

Ideally, those participating in the meeting would also be tech-savvy friends, willing to try something new in a spirit of experimentation--with an alternative such as a simple phone conference ready as a backup. For communications with a client whom you wouldn't want to be embarrassed in front of, he said, "I would still advise extreme caution, knowing that an unacceptable level of failure is possible. I say that with a heavy heart, but with great hope--I think we're nearly there."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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