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article imageGoogle's Slack rival is now generally available

By James Walker     Mar 1, 2018 in Technology
Google's announced the launch of Hangouts Chat, the company's answer to enterprise chat apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Accessed as part of G Suite, it supports real-time messaging, document sharing and video calls with up to 30 people.
Office hangouts
Hangouts Chat was first announced last year as part of Google's reinvented Hangouts service for enterprises. It was unveiled alongside Hangouts Meet, a separate service which was launched immediately. Chat is only now beginning to roll out, as Google's taken additional time to fine-tune the service.
Hangouts Chat is Google's answer to modern enterprise communication tools including Facebook Workplace, Microsoft Teams and Slack, the latter widely seen to be the market leader. Hangouts Chat's feature set is typical of this kind of app, including a threaded conversation view, voice and video calls, meeting scheduling capabilities and integrated file handling functions.
Google's also added support for automation via bots, a capability which has been instrumental to Slack's success. At launch, only a handful of Hangouts bots are available but Google said it anticipates more will be launched over time. There's currently 25 options from popular CRM, project management and social media providers. Companies can develop new integrations on top of Chat to combine the service with their existing apps.
Corporate collaboration
While Hangouts Chat doesn't do much that its competitors can't, its launch is nonetheless significant. G Suite now has its own built-in messaging service which presents a new threat to standalone services like Slack.
It also makes G Suite a better rival to Microsoft's Office 365, which is now ahead in enterprise messaging. Teams has been available for over a year and has seen active development since, with Microsoft recently focusing on promoting the app to classroom users.
Google Hangouts Chat
Google Hangouts Chat
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According to Google, Hangouts Chat is meant to improve business collaboration by focusing conversations in one place. Using chat "rooms," project discussions, meeting notes and team threads can be centralised into a single app that's available wherever you are. The service also integrates with G Suite apps including Search, Docs, Sheets and Meet, providing a hub for all business activities.
"From direct messages to group conversations, Chat helps teams collaborate easily and efficiently," said Google. "With dedicated, virtual rooms to house projects over time—plus threaded conversations—Chat makes it simple to track progress and follow up tasks."
Hangouts Chat is available from today to existing G Suite subscribers, although it may take a week to reach every customer. The service is accessible on the web and via dedicated desktop and mobile apps. Hangouts Chat is compatible with existing Hangouts conversations and contacts, so the migration process should be simple for companies already using the older platform.
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