Slack, Stride, HipChat—workplace chat apps that integrate with various project management and collaboration services are all the rage. It’s surprising, then, that Google hasn’t jumped on board yet. Workers are using Google Hangouts in offices all over the world, but the company doesn’t offer the kinds of features that Slack does. Now, Google has launched Hangouts Chat, its Slack competitor—sorry, “messaging platform built for teams.” It’s part of the G Suite at every pricing tier, though the features vary by plan.
Announced last year, Hangouts Chat looks and behaves just like regular Hangouts, but it has several enterprise features. It integrates more deeply with various other productivity products in the G Suite-like Google Drive, but it also offers some features and integrations for popular third-party services like Salesforce and Trello, just like Slack does. Google says you can “schedule meetings, create tasks, or get updates from your team right within Chat.”
Google also promises that the service works without any plugins, and that includes the expanded Hangouts feature, Hangouts Meet, which went live a while ago. Hangouts Meet has a leg up over regular Hangouts in the form of tighter integration with Google Calendar and automatic inclusion of old-fashioned conference line call-in numbers. Below are images from the initial announcement of the service.
With so many competitors in the marketplace, Google had to offer some differentiating features. The direct connection with G Suite is a big one, of course; that productivity suite (which includes Gmail) is extremely popular among startups, agencies, and other small businesses, and it’s gaining traction with large corporations, too.
The differentiators Google has chosen to highlight are—you guessed it—AI and search. Hangouts Chat comes with premade bots, which are specialized to certain tasks. The “meet” bot helps schedule meetings and the “drive” bot helps manage and announce changes to files in Drive.
Google also puts “search with the power of Google” front and center, and the company makes a case with security, too. Hangouts Chat is “built with leading enterprise-grade security including mobile device management, single-sign-on, two-factor authentication, admin settings, compliance, and Vault retention, holds, search & export. “
All of this can be done with Slack, though, so the most important value proposition is ease of adoption for orgs that are already using G Suite.
In many organizations, Slack is the first exposure to this kind of group chat. Others (like Ars Technica) transitioned from IRC or from the now-deprecated Campfire. Slack use is now widespread, and Microsoft very recently launched its own Slack competitor called Microsoft Teams. The field only continues to grow.