Google is trying to make it easier for businesses to use its Hangouts video conferencing service. On Wednesday, the tech giant announced that it is no longer necessary to have a Google+ profile to use the service. That simple change could be a big plus in terms of enabling companies to use the service more for sales calls and customer service, as well as types of other business meetings.
Hangouts will now be covered under the same Terms of Service as other Google Apps for Business offerings, including Gmail and Drive, such as 24x7 phone support and a 99.9 percent guaranteed uptime. The company also promised that there will be unspecified, "additional integration" with Google Apps Vault, where companies can store e-mail and chats.
Beginning on Wednesday, Hangouts video meeting will be available to any Google Apps customer account, even if the customer does not have a Google+ profile. That means that any Apps user can start or join a video meeting with up to 15 participants. As part of this evolution, Google+ Hangouts is now just Hangouts. However, regular, non-Apps users will still need a Google+ profile to use Hangouts, which now also includes Google Talk, Chat, and Google+ Messenger.
Blue Jeans, InterCall
In addition to entering Hangouts from a computer or a Chromebox, the company noted that there will soon be support for phones and tablets.
Google Apps is a service intended for business users, while Google+ is a social network that is primarily consumer-oriented, although businesses do use it. The company appears to be making it easier to use a number of its services without requiring a Google+ connection. Last week, for instance, it removed the requirement of a Google+ account from users who wanted to access the Web version of Google Voice. Now, only a Google e-mail account is required.
The tech giant also announced new partnerships to help make Hangouts more appealing to businesses.
Google Apps' VP Product Management Clay Bavor wrote on the Google Enterprise blog that the Blue Jeans vendor "will allow people on traditional H.323 or SIP-based videoconferencing systems to join video meetings," while InterCall will "let people join video meetings on their phones through an InterCall audio-conference bridge." There is also new phone dialing support, so users can dial out from a Chromebox designed for meetings support, to phones.
On the Chromebox front, Google also said that, within a few months, Chromebox for meetings will be able to connect two displays, so that users in one room can see the audience at the other end, while showing a presentation on the second screen.
Integration with calendar will allow Chromebox for meetings to be set up outside an office. Additionally, there will be meeting management from the Google Apps Admin Console, include remotely starting, muting and ending a meeting.
Last week, Google and Sprint announced a partnership in which Sprint will be selling Google's Apps for Business service to enterprise customers. The telecommunications company will also provide expanded support, beyond what Google provides.