Google expands Hangouts with new features for business customers

The search giant thinks there's even more reasons to meet face-to-face, thanks to improvements in its video-chat Google Hangouts features.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: ZDNet/CBS Interactive

Google wants you to get a little bit more social. At least, while you're at work — in, or outside the office.

The search turned everything-else giant announced Wednesday a raft of new features for Google Apps for Business customers, particularly those using the web-based video chat service, Google Hangouts.

In a blog post on its enterprise blog, Google Apps vice president for product management Clay Bavor said new partnerships and feature updates will make things easier for corporate customers.

To wit, Hangouts is now covered under the same terms of service as Google Apps, like Google Drive and Gmail, which translates to 24-hours phone support and a guaranteed uptime of 99.9 percent.

Also, Bavor said Hangouts can be used with customers who do not have a Google+ profile, so anyone can jump on a high-definition video call, either from a computer, Chromebox for meetings, and soon to mobile devices and tablets.

A new partnership with Blue Jeans, a cloud-based video conferencing service, means those running traditional phone lines or SIP-based video conferencing services can join in meetings hosted by Google Hangouts. That means those running Cisco, Polycom, or other networking devices can connect with Google Hangouts so nobody will be left out of the loop.

Blue Jeans' chief commercial officer Stu Aaron said in a prepared statement that the company was "thrilled" to work with Google. "We look forward to working with Google to proliferate easy, open, and affordable video conferencing to businesses of all sizes and shapes," he said.

Blue Jeans for Hangouts will be available in September, he added.

Meanwhile, Google is pushing its efforts to bring its Chrome OS-based corporate meeting device, Chromebox, to a wider audience, by connecting two displays at once — for example, one for a Hangout, and the other for a presentation slide.

Chromebox for meetings will be expanded to the U.K. and Japan, in addition to the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

IT administrators will be also given the tools to manage meetings from the Google Apps Admin Console, including remotely starting, muting, and ending a meeting.

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