Google Hangouts as we know it today is radically changing. Not only is the app getting a major UI makeover, it is being split into two separate apps as Google repositions the app for the Enterprise. I’m attending Google Cloud Next this week and the announcements around Google Hangouts are pretty exciting. First, the app is being split into two distinct apps: Hangouts Meet which is designed to be a collaboration and conferencing solution, and Hangouts Chat which is designed to be a Google Drive integrated chat and collaboration tool. Together, along G Suite, provide a seamless way for people both in a company and outside of it to meet, collaborate and share information while removing the challenge of getting people involved with a simple one-tap ability to join a call.
The changes are aimed at cutting down the friction that enterprises have when it comes to setting up meetings and collaboration where content can be easily and freely shared. These, tied to the new Jamboard whiteboard solution will allow the free flowing of content and information amongst team members.
As you would expect, the new Hangouts apps are driving by Google Cloud and Google G Suite. That means that content shared are contained within those solutions for later reference and to be treated by Machine Learning and AI. It is also driven to be mobile. While the focus is on the conference room, users can easily join from mobile devices so they can contribute without having to be in the room itself.
The assumption is that you will be using the Hangouts apps. If you have a G Suite enterprise account, you will get a PSTN dial in option too. Google hinted that APIs would be coming for other integration points within Hangouts but that has yet to be seen.
The question for Project Fi customers, who leverage Hangouts today for SMS, chat and video calls is what will be the impact to them? That was not cleared up at all and remains to be seen. Given that Google has been pushing Fi users to use Android Messages, that could be the answer for SMS but it is unclear on the chat and video elements.
Update: According to Google, the Hangouts will still be available for Project Fi and non-Enterprise users. SMS/Chat will remain for Fi users and non-Enterprise users so there won’t be much of a change in that regard.