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Google Hangouts for business: An enterprise-grade video option?

As Google pushes into the enterprise video market, its partnership with Vidyo makes Google Hangouts for business a viable option.

New technology partnerships and product announcements suggest that Google has designs on the enterprise video conferencing and communications market -- in particular, reintroducing its Google Hangouts for business use cases.

The company has partnered with video conferencing provider Vidyo for help with integrating its voice and video applications with enterprise video conferencing products. Google also recently announced its first video-meeting product aimed at businesses rather than consumers.

"In many ways, Google is trying to be more enterprise-friendly. There is no doubt that some businesses are using Google Apps and Hangouts, and Google is trying to increase their ability to meet more enterprise needs," said Henry Dewing, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass-based Forrester Research Inc.

Vidyo helping to enable Google Hangouts for business

Vidyo recently introduced VidyoH2O, which integrates legacy H.323/SIP and IP PBX voice and video systems from Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize, Avaya and Vidyo with WebRTC-based Google Hangouts sessions. The software-based transcoding service is provided on a subscription basis, both as an on-premises and cloud-hosted offering.

"Users who are starting to move to Google Apps and Google Hangouts for business will still be able to take advantage of their existing voice and video investments," said Joan Vandermate, vice president of product marketing for Vidyo.

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Vidyo established a technology arrangement with Google six years ago for video communications integration. The partnership first embedded Vidyo technology within Google Talk -- now rebranded as Google Hangouts -- in 2008, Vandermate said. "Google has asked Vidyo to help provide interoperability and bridge the differences between Hangouts and legacy voice and video conferencing systems."

VidyoH2O provides a way for users who don't have a Google+ account or Google Hangouts enabled within their Google for business deployment to join a Google video session. The software will also allow users to dial into Google Hangouts environments – a functionality that doesn't exist today, she said.

"Many enterprises using Google Apps for Business aren't enabling Google Hangouts, and they often end up using other video offerings. But now, employees with a video client on their corporate laptop -- such as Vidyo, Avaya or Polycom -- can dial into a Google Hangout and have a business meeting," Forrester's Dewing said.

Google Hangouts for business: A real alternative to enterprise video tools?

Google has other products and services aimed at the enterprise video market, including its recently released Chromebox for meetings -- a video conferencing kit that includes a remote, camera and microphone -- as well as a small Intel i7-powered Asus PC that can bring Google Hangouts and Google Apps into conference rooms, said Rich Costello, senior research analyst for UC and enterprise communications infrastructure at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "There are customers asking for this functionality [for Google Hangouts and Apps] in order for Google to come forward with this kind of offering," he said. The low-cost, all-inclusive Chromebox offering will be especially appealing to companies looking to kick the tires with video conferencing.

But many Google tools still don't fit with the needs of today's information workers, Forrester's Dewing said. "There are some issues with their service-level agreements that don't fit within the traditional way many enterprises are doing business," he said. "But, many of the partnerships [with enterprise video providers] they are working on today are continuing to advance their ability to satisfy business needs."

While Google has an opportunity -- especially via partnerships with existing enterprise video providers, such as Vidyo -- to establish itself as an enterprise provider, the company is getting into a space where Microsoft and Cisco are firmly grounded, said Roopam Jain, industry director of unified communications and collaboration at Frost & Sullivan Inc. "Google will need a whole new push … to put a stake in the ground," she said. "As Google establishes itself in the enterprise video market, we expect other video conferencing providers to offer similar integrations [with Hangouts]."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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