When it comes time to decide between a Google-powered device and an Apple-powered device, the Messages app for iPhones, iPads, and Macs tends to give Apple an edge. Among other things, it works seamlessly across the iOS and MacOS ecosystems, everyone in the Apple camp has it because it's pre-installed, and communication is encrypted by default.
Meanwhile, Google's manifold forays have become the stuff of legend. But at least when it comes to business use, Google has recently been making moves that indicate a clearer vision for messaging. This week, the company announced that its Hangouts platform as we know it will be shut down in October, in favor of dedicated spinoffs: Hangouts Chat for texting, and Hangouts Meet for videoconferencing with up to 30 participants.
Google has already put Hangouts in the "enterprise" corral, moving nonbusiness users over to Android Messages instead. (As its name implies, there is no iOS version for the latter chat app, though iPhone and iPad users get apps for Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.) What will change in October is that current users of "classic" Hangouts will no longer be able to ignore Chat or Meet, because the classic version will begin its phaseout.
Since these are Google chat apps that we're talking about, though, the details of the transition still need some explaining. The process will actually begin in April, when classic Hangouts features will begin migrating to Chat. That's also when G Suite customers with classic Hangouts will be able to use Chat via a web browser, in addition to the mobile app.
For company administrators, April also marks the point at which data retention rules for Gmail (download for Android or iOS) will no longer apply to any Hangouts product. Instead, the rules you set for Hangouts Chat will apply to both Chat and classic Hangouts. There will also be a setting that lets an admin disable classic Hangouts at a time of their choosing, whereupon Chat and Meet will take over.
Be aware that Chat doesn't have some classic Hangouts features yet -- Gmail integration, external user chat, or Google Voice calling. The company also promises "An improved video calling experience," presumably not to be confused with the scalable videoconferencing available in Meet.
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Either way, with Android Messages solidifying as a competitor to Apple's Messages platform, and Hangouts getting separate versions for texting and videoconferencing -- and Allo getting shut down -- Google's plan for messaging apps is at least more defined than before.
And while it may be vexing that Hangouts is splitting into two separate platforms based on whether you want to use text or video, this may allow Hangouts Meet to compete more directly when a potential business customer is considering FaceTime or Skype (download for iOS or Android). Because in theory, a dedicated app can be better at its core function than one that tries to be the jack of all trades.
- Google announced that "classic" Hangouts will begin shutting down in October as the company transitions users to Hangouts Chat for texting and Hangouts Meet for videoconferencing.
- Starting in April, G Suite customers using classic Hangouts will be able to use Chat in a web browser.
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