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Google messaging strategy unbundles Hangouts, communication apps

With the announcement of new Google communication apps, the company could be starting to split its communication services between consumers and enterprises.

Editor's note: This article is part one of a two-part series reviewing Google's recently announced communication...

apps, Allo and Duo. This first article examines the Google messaging strategy and how the company has unbundled its communication services. The second article explores how Google Hangouts now has a focus on the enterprise market.

Google recently announced two new applications: Allo and Duo. Allo is a "smart messaging app" with a splash of artificial intelligence, courtesy of the new Google Assistant, a virtual assistant tool. Duo is a one-to-one video chat app.

The unbundling of Google+ services from its core -- making Google Photos and Hangouts independent -- can now be seen as complete with the "unbundling" of Hangouts itself into smaller components. Until recently, Google worked hard to merge all its assets under the single roof of Google Hangouts. Google Voice made the transition into it and so did sending and receiving SMS messages on Android devices.

In the last year, though, a change has been brewing. Google messaging is shifting SMS away from Hangouts to its simpler Messenger Android app. Google also acquired Jibe Mobile, a vendor focused on rich communication services, considered the next-generation carrier messaging protocol.

With the debut of Allo and Duo, Google is taking the next significant step of splitting its communication services between consumers and enterprises. There is no single app to rule them all anymore. Both apps are expected to be available this summer on Android and iOS.

Google messaging capitalizes on data mining, machine learning

Allo is Google's consumer play in messaging. Today's messaging services are growing into full-fledged communications and e-commerce platforms in which people interact with each other and businesses.

Google messaging hopes to gain an advantage by employing what the company does best: data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Allo is like any other messaging service with the added benefit of artificial intelligence, which enables the app to suggest responses for the user based on context. For better or worse, this feature reduces our need to think in such social interactions while using our smartphones.

The artificial intelligence feature also enables Allo to reach out of session boundaries and pull in suggestions from other data stored by Google, such as restaurant suggestions. This provides Google with an interesting venue for monetization and a premium place for businesses to invest in ad placement and content exposure.

The main competitors that the Google messaging app is targeting are Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp services, WeChat and other messaging apps. Google messaging hopes to gain an advantage by employing what the company does best: data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

A video telephony face-off with FaceTime

The other recently announced app, Duo, is a person-to-person video chat app. In that sense, it is no different than FaceTime. Unlike FaceTime, however, Duo is planned to work on both Android and iOS. But currently Duo is not expected to work in browsers, even though it uses WebRTC.

Duo has two other differentiators:

  1. The app includes a feature called Knock Knock where the caller's video is sent as part of the calling process itself, so the receiving party sees the caller's video before accepting the call. This gives the feeling of a smoother call interaction.
  2. Google optimized the experience by employing its experimental QUIC protocol, which aims to speed up the calling process but has no effect on the media quality during the call.

There is no indication how integrated Duo or Allo will be in Android. Will they be stand-alone apps that users will need to install and opt in to use? Will they be mandatory apps in Android smartphones? Will they be part of the phone's dialer itself? Overall, Duo is clearly a FaceTime competitor.

Next Steps

Google collaboration tools strong, but telephony lacking

Google Apps vs. Office 365 for business email systems

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This was last published in June 2016

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Why are Google communication apps being split up?
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While it's too early for me (or most others) to provide a definitive answer to WHY, we can be certain that the benefits to Google will far outweigh any benefits to end users. It seems these days nothing happens unless it boosts the company's bottom line.
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