Google Plus got a bunch of new features today, many of them involving Hangouts, the video chat feature. This is not the only social network with video chat in town, but Hangouts always had some stand-out features. First of all, they can be public, so anyone can see one in their stream and join in, which is a very honest interpretation of the word “social.” They also support two-way chat for up to 10 people, which can be chaotic, but often in a fun way.
Today’s update brought Hangouts to mobile devices, and it added “On Air” mode to allow users to broadcast to the public (once On Air opens to everyone, that is). All these features sound like fun. But the killer app on Google Plus is more about work than play. Google Docs is now available live over Hangouts, making live, face-to-face collaboration possible on the Web for free.
Making Stuff Together
With screensharing and a shared sketchpad, and especially with Docs, Google Plus is now a platform for making stuff together, face-to-face. It’s the first Plus feature that’s categorically different than anything Facebook can do. Facebook surely has a bunch of exciting things to announce this week, but there’s no chance any of them will go in this direction. Google Docs is it as far as cloud-powered collaboration goes – outside of the pricey enterprise market – and that team is killing it lately with new features. Google Plus Hangouts are now a natural place for people to work remotely together. Can you believe that these capabilities are free? There aren’t even ads on it yet!
Plus for the Enterprise?
So, does that mean enterprise collaboration suites like Citrix or WebEx are in danger? Probably not. For one thing, unfortunately, Plus access for Google Apps accounts is not among the first 100 features, so Google’s actual enterprise customers are still locked out. Presumably, though, that access will come, and while it won’t be free, the Google Apps suite is pretty darn affordable by enterprise standards. Are the Hangouts tools powerful enough? Maybe not for everyone, but certainly for the vast majority of work tasks. Can Google Plus change corporate culture? That’s a good question, and it depends whether Google wants to take the product in that direction.
Best of all, though: Google also began to open the Hangouts API to developers today, so independent geniuses everywhere can start expanding the possibilities.
Would you use Google Plus Hangouts for work? Let us know in the comments.