Google’s Slack competitor, Hangouts Chat, is out of beta and is becoming a core part of G Suite. Hangouts Chat was first announced as an invite-only preview service at Google Cloud Next 2017. The service debuted alongside Hangouts Meet app, which became available to public right away.
Google says Hangouts Chat will be rolling out to all G Suite users over the next seven days. At Google Cloud Next 2017, Google decided to streamline its Hangouts chat platform into two distinct services – Hangouts Chat for workplace communication and Hangouts Meet for video conference. The service exist alongside the standard Hangouts app, which replaced Google Talk. With Hangouts, Google is essentially taking on Slack, Microsoft Teams and similar services. It is available on Android, iOS and the web.
The basic idea remains standard across all of these services and the key focus remains enabling effective communication. However, what makes Google’s service stand out against others is the integration of its artificial intelligence platforms. Within Hangouts Chat, Google has built a @Meet bot that will schedule meetings and @Drive bot that keeps a track of files shared with you or alert you when people request access to one of your own documents.
Google says enterprise application companies have already developed bots on its Chat platform. They include Salesforce, ProsperWorks, Streak, Zenefits, Kayak, Trello, Statsbot, Freshdesk, Zoom.ai and Jina. Like Slack, there is also a Giphy bot when words are just not enough to express something. Google says developers can also build their own bots and integrate their own services with Chat.
Hangouts Chat currently supports 28 languages and each room (or channel) can have up to 8,000 members. One major advantage Chat has right out of the box is the deep integration with Google apps. Hangouts Chat users can easily start video conference using Meet, add files using Drive and collaborate on work with Google Docs. However, Google does not have a proven track record in the world of social and social messaging apps.
Google currently has following apps for chat: Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Chat and Meet. Allo and Duo are being pitched as consumer text and video chat apps. While Hangouts Chat and Meet are the business oriented alternatives to those apps. But there is also a standard Hangouts app for just texting. It is confusing to say the least but Google seems to be pitching Hangouts Chat as value addition to G Suite users. The idea is similar to Microsoft Teams, which is a value addition to Office 365 users.
Slack is currently the leader in office communication space but it has seen competition from Microsoft Teams and Asana. Atlassian also joined the fray recently with Stride but there is definitely room for growth despite the crowded field.