Google launches Hangouts Chat, its Slack competitor

Janie Parker
March 12, 2017

After years of uncertainty about who the Hangouts comms platform was aimed at, Google has decided it's definitely for the enterprise, launching two team-focused Hangouts apps, Meet and Chat.

But even if Google Hangouts - in its new avatar - is not able to directly compete with Slack or Microsoft Teams, it's a major upgrade for Hangouts.

Google wants its users to take advantage of its Microsoft alternative, G Suite, the company's collection of cloud-based team-oriented apps. While Slack is "optionally threaded", Hangouts Chat is more like "threaded by default"-the main input bar is actually labeled "Create a new discussion".

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More importantly, though, setting up a video meeting should be a lot easier going forward: guests who aren't on the invite (or who happen to have clicked into the meeting) will be able to "knock" and ask to join more easily. The bot will go through your calendars within the G Suite account and schedule meetings and events for you, thus saving time you'd have wasted doing the same. Well, according to the search engine company, the main reason for doing this is to promote Hangouts as an enterprise app while leaving Allo and Duo for mainstream mobile phone users. You can access Meet right here on the web or via Google Play.

How much does Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat cost? Meet is rolling out now, and an "Early Adopter Program" exists for Hangouts Chat.

Google said it is doubling down on its enterprise focus for Hangouts and its commitment to building communication tools for business teams. Google also designed Chat to integrate with a wide set of enterprise tools and is working with companies like Asana, Box and Zendeskto. (Hey Google, an Allo-style Google Assistant bot would be cool.) Search is built into the interface, too, allowing users to filter by people or file type. They can also dial into a designated number. But one thing seemed to be missing and that was a strong collaboration product a la Slack, Microsoft Teams, and others. It's also got a "green room", where you can check yourself, make sure you look presentable and then join the video call meeting. Apparently, developers can add more bots to the new Google Hangouts Chat once it leaves the beta channel, but for now, there's still no integration with Google Assistant. Everything on Hangouts Chat is integrated with Google's other services such as Google Docs, Sheet, Calendar, and especially Drive. The company wanted to improve Hangouts to make it easier and faster for people start and join video conference. Both Meet and Chat will directly rub up against early enterprise players including Slack and Hipchat.

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