Video chat from long tables in boardrooms and meeting rooms, where employees stared at a large screen on one side of the room, initially emerged as a way to reduce travel expenses -- but tech companies have figured out a way to make video conferencing a mobile and social tool, integrating it into a variety of business applications.
Google took aim at Microsoft Wednesday when it rolled out a set of Google+ features designed for businesses. Apps customers can use these business features in the social site for free through 2013, as the Mountain View, Calif. company continues to add more features and administrative controls, to compete with Microsoft's Skype. The keyword here: Enterprise.
Companies will support the growth of Google+ as a business tool as well as in relation to advertising. Web-based collaboration and tools that allow co-workers, or companies and clients, to share information in real-time have become the backbone of business. But agreements are not only made on good ideas, but also the ability to build relationships and communicate thoughts and strategies. Sometimes that requires a face-to-face meeting, even if the two are working at opposite ends of the world.
Multi-video chat direct from Gmail has moved into Google Docs and Calendar Events. Up to 10 people can join from their laptop, phone or tablet. The group can restrict access to hangouts in video chat. If restrictions are on in the advance setup, users see a notice when starting a hangout. However, users can still override this and either invite only specific external participants, or open the hangout to the public.
The Google Apps features for customers provides the ability to restrict posts and hangouts to a specific domain, schedule and join video calls from Calendar, set company defaults from the Admin Console, start multi-way video calls from Gmail, and edit docs live inside a hangout.
Google+ will give Google a back door into serving businesses with Docs, strengthening the company's position in enterprise apps and cloud services.