Google+ has been looking for a way to distinguish itself from the competition. They tried with their unique video chat system called Hangouts. They tried with a group photo upload option called Party Mode. And now they’re trying again with a new series of features designed to turn their site into your office conference room.
This time, I think they got it right.
Noting that more and more companies are using Google systems like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive for work, they decided to run with the idea and make it official. They don’t have a snazzy new name for the overall project but Google+ at Work seems appropriate, so let’s run with that for the moment.
The concept is this: instead of only using your Google+ Page to talk to your customers, why not use it to talk to your co-workers.
It begins with restricted posts. This is an option that allows you to share posts privately with only those who work for your company.
The big news is how you can use Hangouts to run meetings. It starts with an invite that attaches itself to a Google Calendar event so the user has the login URL right there on the meeting reminder. Up to 10 people can join one Hangout and they can do it from Google+ or Gmail.
The best part, you can open a Google Doc in the Hangout so everyone can work on the project in real time.
Since I work from home, I’m always looking for better ways to collaborate on projects and this is it. We’re already using Google Docs, we’re already on Gmail, Google+ is the only missing component. It sounds too easy to be true.
Well, it kind of is. Right now, these features are only available to Google Apps for Business customers and will be free until the end of 2013. During that time, Google intends to add more features and build out a solid suite of tools for businesses of all sizes.
These kinds of online tools are perfect for companies with branches all over the world or telecommuting employees. But as Google notes, workers who sit two desks away also use IM’s and emails to communicate, so why not put the company bulletin board and conference room online?