Google has updated its internet chat tool Hangouts, aiming to make it suitable in workplaces and compete with business software makers including Microsoft and Slack.
Google is making Hangouts Chat generally available as a core G Suite service. Hangouts Chat supports instant messaging across devices between workers, including group conversations. It also allows users to integrate widgets to access data from other corporate software in a chat window.
With Chat, you can work with other G Suite apps. Upload items from Drive, collaborate on Docs, Sheets or Slides, join online meetings with Hangouts Meet, or use Google's search to look up room members, past conversations and shared files.
When teams collaborate in Chat, you can speed up manual work, like booking conference rooms, searching for files and more using artificial intelligence.
Chat currently supports 28 languages and each room can support up to 8,000 members. It's available on desktop for Windows and MacOS, as well as iOS and Android.
With integrated support for Vault, admins can archive, preserve, search and export Chat-specific data.
Chat also comes equipped with 25 bots to help speed up workflows, ranging from finance and human resources to CRM, project management and more. There are bots that integrate directly with other G Suite apps, like:
- The @Drive bot which lets you know when files are shared with you, comments are made or when people request access to your docs.
- The @Meet bot which integrates directly with Calendar to schedule meetings for you.
Of course, Chat is compatible with Hangouts and works with your existing contacts. To get started, go to chat.google.com on the web or download the app on your desktop or mobile devices. Google will make Chat available over the next 7 days.
The paid version of Hangouts supports group conversations with up to 8,000 participants. Messages save indefinitely by default, though granular controls are available.
Currenly, businesses have also other options. Chat app Slack has signed up 50,000 paying teams as workers adopt more robust alternatives to email for long-distance communications. Microsoft's Teams provides similar functionality in its Office 365 package.
Microsoft held about 37 percent, and Slack about 5 percent, of the nearly $2 billion global market for collaboration software in 2016, according to research firm IDC.