April 25, 2014

Google chases Yammer, Skype with new Google+ features for business

Integrated video-conferencing, private posts, admin controls.

Google has released communication tools on its social network Google+ developed specifically for business customers. The set of features, announced Wednesday, were available for free in “preview mode” until the end of 2013 for customers on Google Apps for Business.

Google Apps was the vendor’s cloud productivity suite that included email (Gmail) and calendar (Google Calendar), document creation and management (Google Docs) and file storage (Google Drive).

The new features included private sharing of posts on Google+ so they were only visible to other employees within a business. “When you create a post you can mark it as restricted. Restricted posts are private to your organisation and can never be re-shared with anyone outside,” Google said on its blog.  

“At the same time, when you create a post, you have the flexibility to share it with specific partners or colleagues outside the organisation as well if you choose.” 

Another feature was a redesigned video conferencing engine based around Google Hangouts. The redesigned and rebranded video conferencing was integrated with Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, and replaced the video component of the Google Chat instant-messaging application.

Unlike popular video-conferencing programs such as Skype, Google Hangouts could be used without downloading software first. Google Hangouts worked on laptops, smartphones and tablets with up to 10 people simultaneously.

“When you’re on Google Apps, holding a face-to-face meeting with colleagues or clients around the world doesn’t require coordinated travel schedules or expensive video conferencing technology. All you need is a device with a camera and an internet connection,” Google said in the blog.

Google Apps users could open a Google doc in a multi-way video chat session and write or edit the document together from different locations. Google Apps users could create an event for a video chat in Google Calendar.

Google also added controls which let administrators set company-wide defaults to restrict posts on Google+. Google Hangouts could also be restricted to facilitate private meetings within the company.

A mobile version of Google+ for enterprise customers and more administrative controls would be added in the coming months, Google said in its blog.

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