Is the Google Hangouts app becoming a pure enterprise play?

Skype for Business? How about Hangouts for Business? Google has unbundled consumer-centric communication apps from Hangouts, leaving it to focus squarely on enterprises.

Editor's note: This article is part two of a two-part series reviewing Google's recently announced communication apps, Allo and Duo. The first article examined Google's messaging strategy and how the company has unbundled its communication services. This second article explores how the Google Hangouts app now has more of a focus on the enterprise market.

The keynote speech at Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, made no mention of Google Hangouts, which is up and running and getting Google's care and attention with developers working on improving it. With that said, Google I/O 2016 was all about the consumer, and Google Hangouts is now an enterprise play.

Until this year's I/O event, the Google Hangouts app was for both consumer messaging and enterprise unified communications (UC). Hangouts resembled Microsoft's consumer Skype and Skype for Business.

After struggling to gain traction for the Google Hangouts app in both the consumer and enterprise markets -- and not overly succeeding in either -- Google is weighing a new strategy. Google has decided to "unbundle" consumers from Hangouts and shift them to Allo and Duo, the communication apps that were announced at I/O. This approach leaves Hangouts focusing on enterprises only, making product decisions easier to make and execution faster for the Google Hangouts team.

Allo and Duo don't mark the death of Hangouts. They actually breathe new life into it by freeing it to compete and position itself better in enterprise communications.

For its part, the Google Messenger app on Android, an SMS application, could eventually be tied with Google's acquisition of Jibe Mobile. But other than that, Google unveiled very little about its plans for Messenger at I/O.

Competing against Microsoft, Cisco UC services

So, why is Google making this move now? Why is the company changing its strategy from an all-encompassing Google Hangouts app -- covering voice, video, presence and messaging across consumer and enterprise domains -- to multiple apps targeting different audiences with smaller, more-focused feature sets?

Google may now understand that it cannot compete with a single app on multiple fronts.

The answers may lie in the trend of migrating toward simpler applications that do one thing great and nothing else. Google may now understand that it cannot compete with a single app on multiple fronts.

The Google Hangouts app tried to compete in the enterprise space against Skype for Business, Cisco UC services, Polycom and a growing number of cloud video services. In the consumer space, Google has faced off with Apple iMessage, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and a few other large consumer messaging apps.

Google first tried bundling everything under the Google+ initiative, which backfired and wasn't widely accepted by consumers. So, now Google is trying the opposite approach: unbundling communications into smaller components, each with its own focus.

Will Google attract hundreds of millions of active users for Allo and Duo? Will a renewed focus on Hangouts in the enterprise market make it a better competitor in unified communications? These topics will need to be revisited a year from now.

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