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Google Hangouts Meet adds interoperability with competitors

Interoperability with Skype for Business and video conferencing systems from Cisco and Polycom should help Google Hangouts Meet gain more traction among enterprise buyers.

Businesses will soon be able to join meetings on Google's web conferencing platform, Google Hangouts Meet, using Microsoft Skype for Business and video conferencing systems from Cisco and Polycom.

At the same time, Google is helping several competing video conferencing vendors better integrate with Google Calendar, so users will be able to schedule and join meetings on those platforms without downloads or plug-ins.  

The announcements underscore Google's commitment to competing with Microsoft Office 365 in the enterprise collaboration market. The consumer tech giant continues to invest in G Suite's cloud-based applications for web conferencing and team messaging, while also embracing integrations with a wide range of vendors.

"Google has remained a market contender in video conferencing for several years," said Roopam Jain, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "However, its direction in the past was not concerted, and it seemed to be waiting to squarely jump in with an enterprise-ready tool."

Google is now partnering with startup Pexip to make Google Hangouts Meet interoperable with standards-based video hardware and Skype for Business, starting later this month. Pexip's code works behind the scenes, so everyone can participate in the same meeting from different interfaces.

Google Hangouts Meet's incompatibility with third-party communications applications has slowed adoption of the product since its release last year, particularly among businesses already invested in video conferencing products from legacy vendors, Jain said.

"This is a smart move by Google in a very competitive market, where businesses look for a stable and open collaboration platform that they can invest in," Jain said. It could also convince more existing G Suite customers to start using Google Hangouts Meet, positioning Google "as a viable alternative to any other leading video conferencing solution in the market," she said.

Google Calendar add-ons for video conferencing

Cisco Webex is working with Google to let customers schedule and join Webex meetings directly from Google Calendar. The vendors Arkadin, GoToMeeting, LogMeIn, Dialpad, RingCentral, Vidyo and Vonage are working on similar add-ons, Google said.

Google will make those add-ons available in the G Suite app store "in the coming months." It plans to release details for developers so additional web conferencing vendors can sync with Google Calendar in the future.

Google is also expanding its interoperability with Microsoft Exchange, announcing it will make it possible for G Suite users to book rooms, equipment and other resources registered in Exchange.

Google Hangouts Chat to add guest access

Businesses using Google Hangouts Chat will be able to add external participants to communication channels in the coming months -- a feature already supported by all other leading team collaboration apps on the market today.

Google made Hangouts Chat available to G Suite subscribers earlier this year to keep its enterprise portfolio competitive with Microsoft Office 365, which includes Microsoft Teams.

In a 2018 Nemertes Research survey of more than 600 businesses, 10.5% of respondents cited Hangouts Chat as their primary tool for team collaboration. Google ranked fourth behind Microsoft Teams (32.9%), Cisco Spark (21.1%) and Slack (14.5%).

Google is continuing to improve its collaboration products, but it still needs to integrate them with Gmail better, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. For example, users should be able to launch a chat from a Gmail thread.

"They will grow as a threat, while at the same time also integrating with potential competitors," Lazar said.

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