Google Hangouts

With what we now know about the pace of mobile broadband penetration and mobile computing power, it’s pretty safe to say that people are going to rely more and more on mobile technology to do their work. And communicating with others is a big part of doing work.

Call them what you like, but Internet-based meetings and presentations are a big part of how businesses and entrepreneurs, both large and small, communicate. I’ve been paying attention to this market for a while and right now I think we’re watching Google deliver a crushing blow to every other major platform.

Most readers probably know about Google Chat, which eventually morphed into Google Hangouts. Initially these hangouts were limited to 10 people and could not be broadcast to the world. Then, before we know what hit us, Google announces the ability to do “live on air” hangouts. You can still have a bunch of people together in a meeting, but you’re simultaneously broadcasting the whole thing to the world through the power of YouTube.

Amazing. Simply amazing. If you’re paying attention to Talk Mobile then you’ve already seen Phil, Dan, Kevin, Rene and Marcus using the tool. Is it as good as the Skype-based technology Mobile Nations has been using previously? Not yet, but you they’d all agree it‘s improving much faster.

What does this have to do with mobile? A couple of things. First, many audience members who want to watch online meetings will be on mobile devices. Because YouTube already works beautifully on mobile devices it gives Google a leg up on the competition. Also, I think it won’t be long before the actual presenters in webinars are starting to use mobile devices to capture video.

Think about it. Most high end tablets and smartphones have better cameras than competing high end laptops. This stems from people actually wanting to take good quality pictures or video with their mobile devices, versus not being all that picky about the quality of pics captured by a webcam.

Now think back to the early days of YouTube videos. Pretty much everything was based on a single camera shoot -- and a crappy camera at that. Now we have all sorts of productions where people either shoot in multi-camera environments and edit a video after the fact, or more commonly at live events, they shoot with multiple cameras but use a physical switch to record only one final video feed.

As technology improves, so does production value that goes into video. I suspect the same thing is going to happen in the world of webinars. Given the prevalence of high quality cameras on mobile devices, I also think we’re going to see a future where mobile devices become those multiple camera angles. Who better to do this than Google? It can leverage Android, Google+, YouTube and create an easy solution for anyone to run a mobile camera webinar and control everything from a tablet or laptop.

GoTo Meeting

The sad truth about this is it kills the businesses who specialize in webinar platforms. Think Webex (bought by Cisco), GoToWebinar, and Citrix. Did Google set out to kill them? Probably not. It doesn’t matter.

The future of online meetings is clear. More people will watch via mobile devices, and then more people will start to actually produce meetings on mobile devices. Google has the best and fastest-improving mobile platform to do this. Thinking back to when Google+ first launched, I thought Google would fail at creating a social network. I was wrong ... but it’s OK because I admit it. If Google crushes everyone else in the online meeting market, which I fully expect, they become the de-facto leader in social networking among the professional market and possibly many other markets.

As a technology geek and an investor in the tech sector, I’m fascinated by what Google is doing here.

So let’s hear from you. How do you see Google shaping the world of online communication?  Do you agree or disagree that the mobile angle matters as much as I think it does?

 

Reader comments

Being mobile-ready: Google Hangouts will kill every webinar platform out there

52 Comments

Right now most of my on-line meetings are not face to face, but rather one or more presenters sharing a desktop presentation with the audio on a conference bridge. At the moment I don't feel Google Hangouts will kill any of the other webinar providers given the poor performance of presentation applications like PowerPoint on small mobile devices. However given the ubiquity of smartphones with broadband connections I could really see Google Hangouts cut deep into the video conferencing market.

I understand that you meant mobile screen share but the functionality you mention is available on the desktop (web) version of Google Hangouts. If you are sharing screens for presentations or for other reasons, Google Hangouts got you covered.

Now, just because they are not behind other vendors in this area doesn't mean that people are going to switch to Hangouts. Google must offer something much more compelling to attract users of other video conferencing solutions. And that, Google isn't known for I'm afraid to say.

They are usually good with offering comparable services but they rarely take the final step of becoming the dominant service. They did it with GMail, Chrome, YouTube, and Android (two of those were early acquisitions). That's pretty much it out of all the services they offer to end users.

Screen share in Hangouts:
https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1660627

"hey are usually good with offering comparable services but they rarely take the final step of becoming the dominant service. They did it with GMail, Chrome, YouTube, and Android (two of those were early acquisitions)"

You can add Maps and Reader (though now about gone) to that list too.

As anyone who does technical webinars more than a few times can tell you, "screen sharing" is NOT the final piece of the puzzle. The people who use screen sharing are the most awkward and ineffective of our bunch. Why? A video pipe of a powerpoint slide or even a desktop with a browser open is NOT a good use of your technology. Doing it that way wastes so much bandwidth, reduces performance, and results in unstable quality depending on the destination computer.

Tools like Microsoft Livemeeting (no, I dont work for microsoft or any of their subsidiaries) not only let you share audio/video and your screen (if you dare) but let you efficiently broadcast powerpoint, word, excel, etc without doing it like a video stream (it decodes it on the client like a document, as it should be) plus they allow two way collaboration whiteboard space, file sharing, remote desktop piping (again not as a video capture but as an application specific feed) voting, and more. It's a solution designed to do "webinars" and similar activities.

Google Hangouts is great for video broadcasting and face-to-face stuff, but it doesn't even come close to doing what you really need from a webinar platform.

In the words of Dr.Grant from Jurrasic Park, "I don't want to jump to any conclusions here, but this is all moving so fast and we're running to catch up".

From the DARK AC App!

Not to take this too far off topic, but if Google+ ever gains any traction I think Hangouts is also well placed to kill of most other IM clients in the same fell swoop

I wish it would. At least on the iPhone it looks better than anything else out there. I just can´t seem to get my friends to stop using Whatsapp & VIber.

I got a couple of my friends to use Hangouts, however whenever we do a video chat, it crashes on their phone at least once every 5-10 minutes. The Hangouts app is just buggy as hell, and Google isn't fixing it.

With as few updates as Google has made (on iPhone and Android) to fix core/serious problems to a brand new app, they sure have seemed to make it feel like abandon-ware already.

"If Google+ ever gains any traction"? Google+ is already the second-most-used social network in the world, even above Twitter.

No product hatched by Google is going to dominate until they make it attractive and easy to use for grandma and grandpa. G+ and hangouts is not that intuitive to use. El Goog should hire John Rubenstein to work on a unified UX.

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The audio quality (at least on mobile devices) is still absolutely pathetic as compared to Skype.

Also as hodan said above, it is not very intuitive when it comes to usage. The UI can get very confusing, which is ok for us tech-lovers. But for the normal person, it is terrible to use.

In General I think you are correct, however there is a massive issue to overcome before this service will take off in enterprise and that issue is, the IT department. In a lot of companies the IT policy will block social sites like G+ and YouTube which makes the use of these services limited at best.

This!

My company blocks YouTube and you have to jump through flaming hoops backwards, blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back in order for them to open it up.

I don't do many hangouts. Every once and a while, just cause it's fun, and it's usually with my techie friends. One thing I've never tried is doing a hangout with someone that's not a Google user. Is that possible? When I do a GoToMeeting, they don't have to be a 'Citrix user' or anything, they just download the small lightweight client. Can Hangouts work in this fashion.

Another thing is I use remote access technologies quite a bit. TeamViewer and GoToAssist are just a couple, and I don't think that Google Hangouts (at least currently) could replace those. If Google ends up taking over the meeting space, I could see Citrix and Cisco being more 'remote support' centric.

Am I wrong? Again, Hangouts for me is mostly chatting with the occasional video hangout, so I could be missing additional functionality. I'm a huge advocate of Google and their services, so it would be great to see them rise to the top in this area.

You are exactly right. Anyone interested in just a picture of themselves talking, is using Google Hangouts because its "Cool". Anyone in the business world interested in just a picture of themselves talking will email a head shot around, and then get on an audio conference bridge because it accomplishes the exact same thing. For professional users (which i really doubt the original author of this article is) there are so many features missing from Google Hangouts that it's not even thinkable to try to bend it into place. Cisco, Citrix, Microsoft, etc have nothing to worry about. Google will probably kill Hangouts in a year or two anyway after they realize they are putting all this work into it and the only people that use it are Android bloggers.

Joebob - you guessed as to how I use this tool, and you're wrong.  Hangouts have become an important part of what I do for actual revenue generation.  You're looking where the puck has been, not where it's going.

Hangouts has at least some of GoToAssist's capability. There's more to it than just video chatting and screen sharing. I have a feeling that it is pretty extensible, so it's capabilities will be expanded even further:

"Google recently updated its Hangout chat client with the same remote desktop control tech integrated into Chrome. This slick new feature gives you the option to take control of someone's computer (with their permission, of course) during a video call. If you often find yourself recruited to help friends and family members with technical issues, you'll definitely dig this..."

http://www.engadget.com/2013/05/02/google-hangouts-add-remote-desktop-co...

Hangouts isn't going to kill shit unless there's screen sharing capability. I'm sorry, but Webex isn't going anywhere for business users unless you can integrate a slide deck. I'd say 90% of the webinars I attend are based on someone going through a powerpoint deck and narrating with a Q/A section. None of those companies are going to change their format just to use Hangouts instead.

I think almost everyone who disagrees with me thinks that I'm talking about Google Hangouts as a mobile-only tool in its current incarnation.

I'm not.

I'm looking at what the desktop client can do now, and I'm assuming that the mobile technology will keep moving forward as it does every year.  What do you think will happen in 5 years, folks?   

 

I doubt most businesses will rely on software from a company that makes its money selling ads and collecting personal data. They'd rather pay money and license the product.

This sounds like a troll comment, but I'll go ahead. First, Google does not collect personal data. They only collect ANONYMOUS information that isn't attached to you or your account. And ads? I've never seen an ad on Hangouts, so that point is also nullified.

We use hangouts quite a bit - I am a remote worker and we use it to have meetings and collaborate - I was happy I was able to attend my meeting while on the way to driving to school.

while WebEX / Citrix and the like are losing ground - Adobe Connect is mobile ready and is pretty slick so is Fuze Meeting.

The biggest seller for hangouts for me.... Native Linux Support

We use google+ hangouts on the air to broadcast our Church services three times a week. The longest is two hours and it works great for us. We use the screencast feature to broadcast what the audience sees on a large screen and of course the audio is broadcast. Hangouts on the air has been exactly what we needed. The audio is very clear and the screen video looks great too. Even the text is readable.

There are two things I hope Google will add to their hangouts:

1. Let me preschedule and autostart hangouts on the air with the presets I always use. Our services are the same time every week and this would greatly help if we could automate this process.

2. Hangouts on the air cannot be started from a mobile device. There are times we want to broadcast from another location where our PC is not, and I would like to be able to just have the hangout on the air started from my mobile device. Many of these events would be just fine with audio only broadcast so bandwidth is not an issue.

This has been exactly what we were looking for. I must admit, the UI is not very intuitive and one has to almost search for the button to start a hangout on the air and I feel most who are not very tech savvy will easily overlook it and the options to select what portion of the screen or camera they want to broadcast.

But, for us, it serves our needs very well.

It's not going to kill anything. It's not an enterprise tool, it's a personal "I don't want to use Skype" tool.

It might start to eat away Skype's marketshare but that's it.

Unless Microsoft scraps LiveMeeting and Lync and Cisco scraps WebEx, it'll do nothing in the enterprise space and fail to live up to your prediction that it will kill every webinar platform out there.

Online communications is Google's playground. No one will be able to match them in anything internet related soon.

I don't see it honestly.

Working for IT, we have security policies (stated above), centralized systems dedicated and running multiple applications through our organization. They all use LDAP, Windows AD, single sign-on type technologies that provide company wide authentication.

Because we try to protect our proprietary info as best we can, we don't love the cloud. Might be an old model, but we have a lot invested in it and we're not about to open up our infrastructure to let Google Hangouts in the door.

99% of social apps are blocked, and we'd look for a solution that supports mobile devices through our secure corporate firewall, etc.

I mean, its not like Cisco, Citrix and others aren't working hard to move their product offerings to mobile devices as well...

I wouldn't expect folks who aren't in the day to day operations of large IT departments to understand, but there's a lot more to consider than looking as some bullet point feature list.

Skype, sure.

The reason those services are so slow to go mobile is that there is just such a tiny demand for actual professional collaboration on mobile. With most powerpoints too packed to be properly read on anything less than a 19" monitor (and some pushing the limits of 65" projected screens) the experience on mobile is just of extremely small value. If you are a professional you do one of three things: attend a virtual meeting from a desktop or decent sized laptop, skip the video and just dial-in for audio, or you will skip it entirely and watch the replay.

Yep, I agree 100%...the problem is that the guys who control the $ (at least in our organization), want mobile, even if it is less than ideal.

Hey I a m new to andriod I have a gs4 coming from iphone5 why cant I text more than 2 pics or text a 30 sec clip without it sayin it is two large my iohone would do as many as I want whats up is there a setting fir this because this is stupid

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Second get the Google Keyboard.
First, there should be some settings where you can set the max size of your mms. in any way I'm pretty sure is for your own good to have things limited and resized if you are sending thru mms because who ever is receiving it more than likely wont get it anyways. i recommend emailing or other methods.

another thing, you should be asking this question in S4 forums. this blog post is not about S4 or mms or keyboards.

I agree with this article; Hangouts is going places. I've already seen many major companies using the live Hangouts on Air feature.

But google hangouts does not work in south africa i can only chat not video calling.

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"Because YouTube already works beautifully on mobile devices.."

Yeah when it wants to (and not choosing to buffer like crazy at the worst possible moments, like when you're showing off your brand new video to your friends)..

Half the time I try to watch a youtube video it tells me it's not available for mobile, and if I switch to my laptop then half the time it tells me I have to install some other version of flash which isn't worth it to watch some video. They're starting to remind me of RealPlayer.

Quite a few people in here desperately hanging on to old technology and ideas.

Hangouts is integrated into Gmail, Google+, Drive and Chrome. There are public APIs available that make Hangouts extensible, and screen share, collaboration, "presentation mode" (slide decks) and everything else that are these must-have features are either already there or could be built with a little work. Let's see your IT department try to build a custom feature into LiveMeeting or WebEx. 

It's a fun toy, but it's also much more if you want it to be. 

My company has used Adobe Connect for webinars (Citrix: GoTo & Cisco: Webex to lesser extent) since before Macromedia was acquired by Adobe. We've toyed around with Hangouts On Air as it never hurts to have more tools in the toolbox, but I don't see using the service for webinars/webcasts unless I need to broadcast video to a huge population as the service doesn't provide the multitude of tools that come with actual webinar/webcast platforms. Though, if we only need to use a service that broadcasts video and no other bells and whistles are needed, Youtube Live would also fill that need (so would Ustream, Livestream and others). In any event, the service is free so I can't gripe as you do get a lot for $0.

If HOA could seamlessly and easily incorporate polling, breakout rooms, have more than one in meeting host, have more than 10 presenters/support staff in the hangout, integrate communication with general attendees within the hangout and have the ability to make communications public/private, integrate with an LMS, allow for users to connect to all services outlined above without the need for a gmail/G+/Youtube account, get around any firewall/social network bans and still be free, then the service becomes intensely more attractive. Otherwise, it remains a novel tool and not a "webinar killer" per se.

As for mobile connectivity, Adobe Connect has been in front of the curve in regard to catering to mobile users and I'd be shocked if other platforms aren't already working on mobile apps so as to stay relevant. Not to sound like a shill for Connect, but the service allows for third party applications to run within the platform.

All of the limitations you describe (chat, poll, etc) are current problems, not future problems of Hangouts On Air.  Skate to where the puck is going ...just look at what Google has done in a short time here.  What happens over the next 2-5 years?  it's INSANE.

Certainly for small businesses, individual professionals and bootstrapped startups, a webinar platform that costs $500/month and doesn't offer a TON of below-the-surface SEO fringe benefits with use, will be more difficult to test, demonstrate a reliable positive ROI and monetize.

G+ HoA is right there, free to test, try, experiment, all while using the early "beta" version of the platform.

If you have enough bandwidth, you can even experiment with simultaneously doing a "closed" Go to Webinar AND recording a Hangout of the presentation/conversation and faces, to see if there's a way to "double-down" on audience engagement > On GTW you can only engage with registered people; on G+ HoA you can get engagement live & after on any and all social platforms with a much broader audience.

I think G+ HoA is a better tool for non-committal UX audience exposure to your brand.

You might be interested > last week I did a Hangout about Hangouts for CopyPress (viewable on Nicole Jones' YouTube channel). Let me know if I can ever participate in your discussions about the value & opportunities in G+ HoA

Debbie Horovitch
G+ HoA consultant & tech producer for hire
Social Sparkle & Shine

My company uses RHUB web conferencing appliances for conducting webinars. It works from behind my company’s firewall, hence higher security.