Google on Wednesday announced a new application, known as Hangouts, during its annual I/O Developers Conference that looks to unify the company’s existing chat and video services. The application was released for Gmail, Android, iOS and Chrome, and it supports Google Talk, Google+ Hangouts and Google Messenger. Dori Storbeck, community manager of Google+ Hangouts and Chat, confirmed on Thursday that SMS integration is also “coming soon,” noting that is it one of the company’s “most requested features.” Adding the ability to send and receive SMS messages will help Google further compete with Apple’s iMessage service and BlackBerry’s upcoming cross-platform BBM app. More →
Google recently announced that its Google+ social network is now available to anyone who wants to join. The search engine giant noted that it has added 91 changes during the social network’s beta trial, which lasted just under 90 days, and that it is deploying nine new changes on Tuesday. Among the most notable additions, the Hangouts video chat feature is now available for Android smartphones running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or newer. Here is a list of several other key changes:
- A new “Hangouts on Air” option allows users to live broadcast to up to nine different people.
- Hangouts can now be named.
- A screen sharing function has been added to Hangouts.
- Users can now share and view a sketchpad directly inside Hangouts
- Google Docs can be viewed and shared inside Hangouts.
- Google+ members can now search for other users from the social network directly and Google+ will return results from around the web.
- The Google+ Hangouts API is now available for developers.
Michael Dell is toying with the idea of using Google+ Hangouts for Dell’s customer support. The service allows users to initiate a video chat session with multiple people inside their Google+ circles. “I am thinking about hangouts for business. Would you like to be able to connect with your Dell service and sale teams via video directly from Dell.com?” he posted on his Google+ page on Sunday. The idea was an instant success: 556 people had given the comment a +1 as of Tuesday morning and hundreds more left comments in support of the suggestion. As GigaOm points out, it is currently not possible to start a “Hangout” session from anywhere but from inside Google+ itself. The social network is still in a young invite-only phase, too, so some customers would not have access just yet. Still, Google has said that it plans to offer Google+ for businesses, so perhaps Dell’s idea could come to fruition down the road. More →