Google goes after Slack and splits Hangouts into Chat and Meet

September 9, 2018

Googles messaging strategycan be confusing, but if theres one thing thats clear after todays Cloud Next keynote, its that the company is doubling down on the idea that Hangouts is its enterprise product and Allo/Duo are its consumer communications apps.

But now there are a couple of new wrinkles in the Hangouts story. Google is splitting Hangouts into two: Hangouts Chat, which is clearly gunning for Slack, and Hangouts Meet, which is all about video and audio communications. Those two are basically the enterprise counterparts to Allo and Duo.

Meet is now generally available. Hangout Chat is going into Googles early access program.

The current Hangouts app isnt going away just yet, but it wont last forever, either.

Hangouts Chat

The new Hangouts Chat then is all about team messaging. That means the application, which will be available on Android, iOS and the web, will offer rooms (yep just like Slack).

Itll also offer threaded conversations, something thats a bit of a holy grail inside chat apps and that Slack hasnt quite perfected yet, either. Those threaded conversations, Googles director of product management forDrive Scott Johnston told me, are the reason why launching this new Hangouts chat experience took so long. We learned a lot from threading Gmail, he told me. But its also a constant tuning because everyone is just so trained iniMessage and the flat ones. That makes sense in lightweight chat, but when you need to be able to drill in, it breaks down.

Googles own services are, of course, deeply integrated into the service, too. When you share a file with a room, all of the members automatically get access to it, for example. But Google is also bringing in third-party services, as well, and launching the Hangouts platform that will allow developers to bring in bots and lightweight scripts (based on Google Apps script) to perform different tasks. There will also be advanced bots from the likes of Asana, Box, Zendesk and ProsperWork at launch, with more coming in the future.

Google itself is launching a bot that makes it easier to find meeting times to showcase what these integrations can look like.

In addition to all of these new features, Hangouts Chat is also gettingadvanced search and the ability to filter conversations by file types.

Hangouts Meet

Hangouts Meet, which made a brief appearance in the Google Play store lastmonth, is all about making meetings easier. One of the biggest things talking to our G Suite customers about Hangouts meetings is just how people are spending so much time on getting into the meetings, Johnston said. Were a big supporter of automating the full meeting life cycle from agenda to follow-ups. But meeting value today is destroyed by time-to-start. It takes so long to simply get started.

Unsurprisingly, Meet then tries to make getting into a meeting as easy as possible. Ideally, itll just take one click and youre in your meeting, whether thats a video or audio one.

Its a full rewrite of the Hangouts meeting experience and will work without any plug-ins (and Google also promises that it will be lighter on the processor, too, and wont eat into your battery life or make your laptops fans spin at full speed). The team also cut down on the code size and promises that meetings will load instantly.

There are also a few new features in Meet, including recording, for example, and the maximum number of participants is now 30. The service is also integrated with Googles Chromebox for Meetings.

By default, every Meet meeting will also come with a dial-in number and that number has the PIN code attached to it, so you only have toclick on the number to dial in and itll handle the PIN code for you automatically.

But why?

So why split Hangouts into two? What we found in talking to our enterprise customers, they really thought of two key entry points, Johnston said. One is: just get me into the meeting I want to jump on and have a conversation. And they want to respond quickly to conversations that are going on within their team. So there are two app entry points, but they are the same family. Over time, though, Chat and Meet will supersede Hangouts.

While Chat and Meet are focused on business users, Johnston acknowledged that there is always an overlap between consumers and business users. Regular Gmail usersoften want to be productive, too, after all. We know people use Hangouts for work in the consumer space, so itll be offered for them, Johnston said.

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