There’s been a glitch in the matrix.
A little wrinkle in the omnipresent Google façade seems to have accidently laid bare the tech giant’s plans to launch a new, enterprise-oriented HD video conferencing platform.
As was first reported by TechCrunch in late February, Google briefly added details of its planned Meet by Google Hangouts video service to the App Store for browsers and smartphones before removing any such mention in early March after the (seemingly unintended) news broke online.
The shell of the new platform’s URL is still available for inspection, although it gives away little and looks more like an old-fashioned screen saver at the minute.
Judging from what was momentarily made public, the service will expand Hangout’s capacity from 10 to 30 simultaneous video callers, and will integrate with Gmail and Calendar within Google’s recently rebranded GSuite business apps.
However, is there really anything left for a new enterprise video conferencing app, even one from the world’s most valuable company, to offer the business world that isn’t already out there?
Allo and Duo Are for Fun, Meet Is for Work
The introduction of Meet would seem to put Google’s otherwise haphazard approach to messaging and video calling into some order.
The launch of Google Duo last year, a one-on-one chat platform with a unique style of live greeting, continued Google’s flurry of branding and rebranding, converging and specializing its video calling offerings.
Now it seems clear that Duo, and its instant messaging cousin Allo, will stand as complementary consumer-based social apps, with Hangouts, should it continue at all, offering a group calling alternative.
That leaves the field clear for Meet to act as the professional side of Google’s video calling stable. The new service will likely be the primary beneficiary of Google’s recent purchase of Swedish video conferencing audio pioneers Limes Audio. The first step toward getting respect as a professional is to look and sound like a professional.
There’s got to be more to Meet than just superior visuals and audio, however.
Google Chromebox for the Conference Room
Google already has a physical presence for the conference room it can pair with its improved video calling experience. Chromebox has been around for several years, and acts as an all-in-one video conferencing unit that plugs into existing in-room monitors.
It hasn’t enjoyed the same high praise as the Chromecast smart TV unit, but it does give Google a practical tool to sell to its desired enterprise audience.
The problem is that Microsoft has the in-room, easy-to-use market’s attention at the moment, following the release last year of its Skype Room Systems. As with Chromebox, this tablet-powered series of one-touch video conference setups dial directly into the company’s in-house video platform–Skype for Business, in Microsoft’s case–and let users initiate group calls in minutes.
And that’s Google’s problem. It is late to the professional-grade video conferencing party, and there’s nothing hinted at in the Meet leak that seems to offer a radical alternative to current offerings.
WebRTC for Business?
Google has been one of the leading champions of WebRTC browser-based video calling, readily offering developers the keys to its open source platform so they can design and launch new methods of real-time communication.
Meet is almost certain to include elements of WebRTC, such as integrating calls from different devices, and allowing non-GSuite members to join existing meetings. It could also add disposable, anonymous video chat rooms, like appear.in currently does, to allow external clients and partners to connect via short emailed links.
That potential aside, Meet currently seems to be just a clone of Skype for Business with a promise of higher grade call quality and integration with Google Docs rather than Microsoft Office…in other words, Google Hangouts. Admittedly, there’s very little to go on from the unofficial release, so maybe Google has something special up its sleeve.
Maybe it’ll make use of WebRTC to make a platform that can connect with legacy conference room setups from other brands, linking Skype users, GoToMeeting and Cisco or Polycom users together.
Maybe it’ll take advantage of its search engine popularity to introduce chatbot assistants that offer a new level of in-meeting sophistication.
Or, maybe Google will just rely on the ubiquity of its search engine brand, and the billion Gmail users who’d like to be able to launch a call without switching accounts, and forge a video calling empire almost by default.