A Few Thoughts on Hangouts

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I’ve said before that Google isn’t that serious about enterprise communications. My main proof point was the bungling of the Google Voice opportunity. I’ve been using Google Apps from nearly the beginning. Although not as robust as Microsoft Office, it has some compelling benefits particularly multi-user collaboration. I probably use G Docs 75% of the time to MS Word 25% (but that 25% is some of my best stuff). My belief that Google wasn’t too serious and the shear amount of progress Microsoft has made with Office 365 had me thinking that Google’s enterprise window was closing.

But lately Google has been giving all kinds of indications that it is getting much more serious about the enterprise.

The big news today is Hangouts – but before I get to that, let’s look at the recent build-up of enterprise related news:

  • G Drive for Work: Now includes enhancements to the IT administration portal including improved controls and audit APIs, and encryption for data in storage and transit.
  • Android for Work: Google has announced containerization to simplify matters for BYOD implementations. IT administrators can remotely control, manage, and wipe work related apps only.  The technology is a variant of Samsung Knox, and used within Genband’s SMART OFFICE App.
  • Native editing of Microsoft Office documents and offline access to G-Drive and G-Apps

These are some enterprising improvements (related research).

Today, Google announced that Hangouts is available without Google+ and also that it improved Chromebox for Meetings.

  • Hangouts is the only reason I use Google+. I actually deleted my Goog+ account, but recreated it for Hangouts.
  • Hangouts is preferred for video over Skype. Primarily because it is multi-party and that’s a Skype paid upgrade. [Skype reverted back to free last April]
  • With Hangouts now a part of Google Apps, its adoption should increase. For example, my local school district uses Google Apps, but blocks Google+ – thus the students can’t use Hangouts. Now they can.
  • Hangouts is relatively hard to use compared to Skype – unless the other participants are Google Savvy – which I find rare in the enterprise space.
  • I only use Hangouts for video – where I use Skype for video, IM, and voice.
  • Google Apps and Office365 are increasingly head to head competitors. O365 has Lync Online, but Hangouts is far more universal.
  • I’ve been using a Chromebook and Skype sucks on it (Hangouts does great on a sub $300 device). I use a web service called Plus.im for Skype on the Chromebook, but it’s problematic. Skype has an advantage being a local client if and only if the device can run it. Hangouts is browser based.
  • I enjoy greater control of my address book with Skype than Hangouts. It will be interesting to see how Google manages this without “Circles.”
  • Hangouts no longer requires a plugin – it is WebRTC compliant (whatever that means – means it works in Chrome without a plugin and theoretically some other browsers too).
  • Hangouts uses the VP8 codec – not H.264.
  • There are two ways to get from Hangouts to other video systems – neither of which are native. Option 1: Use Vidyo’s H2O, Option 2: Use the new upgraded Chromebox for Meetings – a Google appliance.
  • H2O is available as a product or service. It can interface to legacy or (as of this week) Microsoft Lync systems. Thus, due to changes by both Google and Vidyo, H2O just became much more valuable. H2O was just a Google Hangouts add-on, but now a viable standalone product that could benefit environments that don’t use Hangouts at all. In fact, H2O may have just become the logical extension for room systems that drags users to Apps.
  • Lync and Skype interop natively. Now H2O interconnects Hangouts and Lync (and in theory Skype) as well as all room systems.
  • Chromebox for Meetings was intended to be a room system for Hangouts – it is improved and now supports 2 TVs. But more importantly, it can interconnect to Blue Jeans. I find this curious – good for Blue Jeans – though unclear why Google specifically selected Blue Jeans. You can also use Intercall to bridge audio calls. Chromebox for Meetings presumably still connects to Uber Conference as well.
  • Google and Vidyo agreed to some key technology for VP9 and WebRTC – I hear this is progressing, but there hasn’t been anything new for some time now.
  • I find it confusing that Vidyo added Lync to H2O instead of its Vidyo Gateway product. The answer may lie in Google actually reselling H2O.
  • WebRTC is often exaggerated as a Skype Killer. Hangouts is the biggest threat to Skype – add in WebRTC and room systems and it’s a big threat.
  • Skype is generally considered the most universal, but WebRTC and Android can change that quickly.
  • I am done with Google+, please make it go away
  • I would like to see a larger Ecosystem emerge – Where’s SMART Tech board for Hangouts? When can I buy a VP8 webcam with hardware accelerated encoding?
  • The Video as a Service sector is going to get very crowded – LifeSize, Polycom, Zoom, Fuze… to name a few PLUS lots of WebRTC startups. If the solution isn’t easy, it won’t get used.
  • Google was using Hangouts to lure people to Goog+ – Microsoft is doing similar with strengthening Skype and Lync with interoperability. I suspect the big winners will be the ones without the walls.

Related:

WebRTC Just Became Vidyo’s Bitch

Reflecting on Chromebox for Meetings

Google, Skype and WebRTC

Please Adjust Your Vidyo

Google Enterprise Announcement

Android Reached 85% Marked Share

Dave Michels