Google Apps users can finally get access to the Google+ social platform, giving enterprise and educational customers a new set of collaboration tools.
In a blog post on Thursday, product manager Ronald Ho said Apps administrators could start manually turning on Google+ for their organisations, though those who have opted to automatically enable new services will see Google+ functionality appear over the next few days.
"Google Apps users will have access to the same set of features that are available to every Google+ user, and more," Ho wrote. "In addition to sharing publicly or with your circles, you'll also have the option to share with everyone in your organisation, even if you haven't added all of those people to a circle."
Google+ first appeared at the end of June in private beta form. It opened its doors to the public in late September, although Apps users were still effectively barred by the fact that Apps did not support the Profile feature needed by the social network.
"It took more technical work than we expected to bring Google+ to Google Apps, and we thank you for your patience," Ho said.
He added that the company will soon provide a migration tool so private accounts can be transformed into Apps-based Google+ accounts without breaking the Circles that people have already set up.
As Google chief Larry Page made explicit earlier this month, Google+ is more than a social network — it is a platform that will eventually span every Google service. This strategy has already started going into action, with Google Reader being heavily redesigned so Google+ could take over its social functionality.
Google engineering chief Vic Gundotra had trailed the enabling of Google+ for Apps users on 19 October, while also saying companies would soon be able to set up business pages on the service.
One of the features of Google+ that is most naturally suited to enterprise use is Hangouts with Extras, which provides multi-person video chat with added screen-sharing and collaborative Google Docs editing functionality.
"Whether you're out of town, working on a project with a distributed group, or just don't feel like walking to the next building for your meeting, Hangouts with Extras can give your team the productivity boost it needs," Ho said in his post.
Ho also described the Circles feature, which lets users segment their contacts, as "a great way to share relevant content with the right people". He suggested it will let people target some information at certain project teams rather than everyone in a company, for example.
Three universities in the UK that are educational Google Apps users have now turned on Google+, Ho added: Leeds Metropolitan University, Loughborough University and the University of Portsmouth.
Google Apps admins wishing to turn on Google+ will also have to enable Picasa Web Albums and Google Talk, as these services are used for the social platform's photo-sharing and chat functionalities respectively.
Also on Thursday, Google added a number of other tools to the Google+ platform. A new 'What's Hot' feature highlights trending photos and news items, while Google+ Ripples provides a visualisation of how specific public posts spread as they are shared and reshared.
The company also unveiled the 'Google+ Creative Kit', which offers a basic photo-editing suite that lets people add text to photos or make them look 'vintage'.
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