Tag Archives: meetings

Google Hangouts Meet adds interoperability with competitors

Businesses will soon be able to join meetings on Google’s web conferencing platform, Google Hangouts Meet, using Microsoft Skype for Business and video conferencing systems from Cisco and Polycom.

At the same time, Google is helping several competing video conferencing vendors better integrate with Google Calendar, so users will be able to schedule and join meetings on those platforms without downloads or plug-ins.  

The announcements underscore Google’s commitment to competing with Microsoft Office 365 in the enterprise collaboration market. The consumer tech giant continues to invest in G Suite’s cloud-based applications for web conferencing and team messaging, while also embracing integrations with a wide range of vendors.

“Google has remained a market contender in video conferencing for several years,” said Roopam Jain, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “However, its direction in the past was not concerted, and it seemed to be waiting to squarely jump in with an enterprise-ready tool.”

Google is now partnering with startup Pexip to make Google Hangouts Meet interoperable with standards-based video hardware and Skype for Business, starting later this month. Pexip’s code works behind the scenes, so everyone can participate in the same meeting from different interfaces.

Google Hangouts Meet’s incompatibility with third-party communications applications has slowed adoption of the product since its release last year, particularly among businesses already invested in video conferencing products from legacy vendors, Jain said.

“This is a smart move by Google in a very competitive market, where businesses look for a stable and open collaboration platform that they can invest in,” Jain said. It could also convince more existing G Suite customers to start using Google Hangouts Meet, positioning Google “as a viable alternative to any other leading video conferencing solution in the market,” she said.

Google Calendar add-ons for video conferencing

Cisco Webex is working with Google to let customers schedule and join Webex meetings directly from Google Calendar. The vendors Arkadin, GoToMeeting, LogMeIn, Dialpad, RingCentral, Vidyo and Vonage are working on similar add-ons, Google said.

Google will make those add-ons available in the G Suite app store “in the coming months.” It plans to release details for developers so additional web conferencing vendors can sync with Google Calendar in the future.

Google is also expanding its interoperability with Microsoft Exchange, announcing it will make it possible for G Suite users to book rooms, equipment and other resources registered in Exchange.

Google Hangouts Chat to add guest access

Businesses using Google Hangouts Chat will be able to add external participants to communication channels in the coming months — a feature already supported by all other leading team collaboration apps on the market today.

Google made Hangouts Chat available to G Suite subscribers earlier this year to keep its enterprise portfolio competitive with Microsoft Office 365, which includes Microsoft Teams.

In a 2018 Nemertes Research survey of more than 600 businesses, 10.5% of respondents cited Hangouts Chat as their primary tool for team collaboration. Google ranked fourth behind Microsoft Teams (32.9%), Cisco Spark (21.1%) and Slack (14.5%).

Google is continuing to improve its collaboration products, but it still needs to integrate them with Gmail better, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. For example, users should be able to launch a chat from a Gmail thread.

“They will grow as a threat, while at the same time also integrating with potential competitors,” Lazar said.

Mobile Sharing & Companion Experiences for Microsoft Teams Meetings – Microsoft Garage

Research into Computer-Supported Collaborative Work has explored problems of disengagement in video meetings and device conflict since the 1990s, but good solutions that could work at scale have been elusive. Microsoft Research Cambridge UK had been working on these issues when the 2015 Hackathon arose as an opportunity to highlight for the rest of the company that just a few simple and dynamic device combinations might provide users with the means to solve the issues themselves.

While we had explored some research prototypes in late 2014 and early 2015, for the Hackathon we decided to use a vision video with the goal of getting the attention of the Skype product group, because we knew that the idea would have the most impact as an infrastructural feature of an existing product rather than as a new stand-alone product. We called the video “Skype Unleashed” to connote breaking free of the traditional one person per endpoint model.

team in a conference room
Turning the hackathon video into a working proof-of-concept

When we won the Business category, our prize was meeting with the sponsor of the Business category, then-COO Kevin Turner.  We scrambled to build a proof-of-concept prototype, which at first we jokingly referred to as “Skype Skwid”, a deliberate misspelling of “squid”, because it was like a body that had lots of tentacles that could reach out to different other things. However, we realized that we needed an official project name, so we became “Project Wellington”. This was a related inside joke, because the largest squid in the world is the Colossal Squid, and the largest specimen in the world is in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa… in Wellington, New Zealand.

So as Project Wellington we went to meet Kevin Turner, who also invited Gurdeep Singh Pall, then-CVP for Skype, in November 2015. Both immediately saw the relevance of the concepts and Gurdeep connected us to Brian MacDonald’s incubation project that would become Microsoft Teams.

Brian also understood right away that Companion Experiences could be an innovative market differentiator for meetings and a mobile driver for Teams. He championed the integration of our small Cambridge group with his Modern Meetings group as a loose v-team. The Modern Meetings group was exceptionally welcoming, graciously showing us the ropes of productization and taking on the formidable challenge of helping us socialize the need for changes at all levels of the product, from media stack, middle tier, and all clients. We, in turn, learned a lot about the cadence of production, scoping, aligning with the needs of multiple roadmaps, and the multitude of issues required to turn feature ideas into releasable code.Through 2016 and 2017 we worked on design iterations, usability testing, and middle tier and client code. We were thrilled when first glimpses of roving camera and proximity joining were shown at Build 2017, and then announced as officially rolling out at Enterprise Connect 2018.

a group of people in a conference room
The combined research and product team

We are very excited to see these features released. We are also excited to close the research loop by evaluating our thesis that dynamic device combinations will improve hybrid collaboration in video meetings, and doing research ‘in the wild’ at a scale unimaginable by most research projects. Microsoft is one of only a handful of institutions that can make research possible that will improve the productivity of millions of people daily. So as well as releasing product features, we are exceptionally proud of the model of collaboration itself. And, indeed, we are continuing to collaborate with Microsoft Teams even after these features are released, as we now have a tremendous relationship with a product group that understands how we work and values our help.

To come full circle, then, it was Satya Nadella’s emphasis on the Hackathon as a valuable use of company time, and The Garage’s organization of the event itself, that allowed ideas well outside a product group to be catapulted to the attention of people who could see its value and then provide a path to making it happen.

If you would like to find out more about this project, connect with Sean Rintel on LinkedIn or follow @seanrintel on twitter.

PGi releases GlobalMeet 5.0, as demand for web conferencing grows

PGi has overhauled the architecture and interface of GlobalMeet, making the process of joining and hosting virtual meetings easier on the cloud-based web conferencing platform. The latest version, GlobalMeet 5.0, will eventually replace PGi’s other online meeting tools, iMeet and ReadyTalk Meeting.

Within GlobalMeet 5.0, launched this week, PGi ditched Flash and Session Initiation Protocol in favor of HTML5 and WebRTC. The two technologies let users make phone calls; broadcast over webcams; and share files and screens using Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, Apple iOS and Android apps, or an optional desktop program. 

“Whether it’s a desktop, just a straight browser or a mobile device, it’s one click into the meeting to join it, or to start it if you’re a host,” said Patrick Harper, CTO at PGi, based in Atlanta.

Up to 125 people can participate in one meeting, although the platform should support conferences of up to 300 to 500 people eventually, Harper said. PGi’s around-the-clock customer support is quicker to access in the 5.0 interface, allowing hosts to chat with company representatives during meetings.   

Wainhouse Research, which provided consulting services to PGi while the vendor was developing GlobalMeet 5.0, predicted that personalized web-based conferencing (PWC) platforms like GlobalMeet will soon take prominence over stand-alone dial-in audio services, or the traditional conference call.

Wainhouse, based in Duxbury, Mass., projected the PWC market and the stand-alone audio market will each generate $2.8 billion in revenues globally in 2018. Historically, the audio market had been “dramatically bigger” than the web conferencing market, said Marc Beattie, senior analyst at Wainhouse.

“The reason that people are moving to PWC in general, and why they would move to 5.0, is it’s a richer experience,” Beattie said. “I can do what I need to do if I need to do it, instead of having to pivot between different applications.”

Moving ReadyTalk Meeting, iMeet customers to GlobalMeet

PGi’s web conferencing portfolio also includes iMeet and ReadyTalk Meeting. The company plans to migrate users off those products to GlobalMeet, starting with iMeet customers sometime in 2018. PGi is still deciding exactly how and when to transition its ReadyTalk Meeting clients.

Not all the features in iMeet and ReadyTalk are expected to become a part of GlobalMeet. For example, PGi does not plan to carry over the webinar and webcast platforms available in the other products.

PGi has been under pressure to consolidate what was becoming an unwieldy product portfolio. A December 2017 report on visual collaboration by Aragon Research Inc., based in Morgan Hill, Calif., cited PGi’s overlapping product offerings as the company’s weakness.

Siris Capital Group LLC, a New York-based private equity firm that also owns Polycom, bought PGi for roughly $1 billion in 2015. PGi, which boasts 45,000 customers worldwide, competes with web conferencing providers BlueJeans, Zoom, Fuze, Microsoft and Cisco.

Web-based video platforms replacing hardware

PGi’s reboot of GlobalMeet comes as companies are spending less on video conferencing hardware. Sales of video endpoints are expected to drop nearly 17% between 2017 and 2022, as businesses turn to cloud platforms and web-based applications for video, said Rich Costello, a senior research analyst with IDC.

Nemertes Research, meanwhile, predicted around 72% of the 700 businesses it surveyed around the world will use cloud-based web conferencing of some kind in 2018, up from 63% in 2017.

Today, the market is open to small and large vendors because companies are willing to test different web conferencing tools as they develop an overall unified communications strategy, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes, based in Mokena, Ill. Companies often find the offerings of PGi and Zoom, for example, easier to use than what’s included in the UC platforms of vendors like Microsoft or Avaya, he said.

By 2021, spending on cloud video conferencing will reach $739 million worldwide, more than double the $351 million in revenue in 2016, according to a July 2017 study by London-based IHS Markit.