Google is set to give Hangouts – its messaging app – a major overhaul, by converting it into a business communication tool. During the ongoing Next conference in San Francisco, Google on Thursday announced that Hangouts will now have two parts — Hangouts Meet for video chat and Hangouts Chat.
The Hangouts Chat, which till date was mainly a direct one-on-one chat service, will now have group chat rooms options to hold team meetings. This is the biggest change the app has undergone since it was launched in 2013, according to Verge. It will be integrated into Google Docs and Sheets so that document permissions are assigned automatically based on the team that created them. The app will work on Android, iOS and the web.
Another major feature will be app scripts. Using this feature, Google has created a bot – @meet – that can take a look at the schedules of the users in a group chat and automatically suggest a meeting time and schedule it directly in the Google Calendar. Third-party companies will be able to create apps that integrate with Hangouts Chat using the app scripts.
Hangouts Meet will help companies hold video calls with as many as 30 members at a time. According to the company, the new video chat will be a lighter-weight version of the app and thus will not put lot of pressure on the device processors. Enterprise customers will get a dial-in number automatically. Hangouts Meet will also have an edge over Microsoft Edge and Apple’s Safari – both video chat services – because the user will not need to install a plugin on Chrome or Firefox.
With the new version, Google is looking forward to some corporate collaboration with Hangouts. However, some of these features will be limited to Gsuite users while regular Gmail users may have to eventually pay for a few of these features.
According to tech experts, the new look and features make Google’s Hangouts Chat a lot like Microsoft’s Slack. However, Google’s head of apps engineering Prabhakar Raghavan denied such reports. He told Recode that the new version is not meant to challenge Slack. Raghavan said Slack is already integrated with Google Drive. “We don’t intend to take away from that” he added.