The battle for dominance of the workplace communications technology market is shaping up to be a key trend in the tech space this year: We saw the launch of Slack’s Enterprise Grid version of its signature work-chat product for large organizations this January, the emergence of Microsoft Teams and Facebook Workplace as major competitors to Slack in late 2016, and now, Recode’s Tess Townsend notes, Google is getting in the game as well with a set of new workplace tools in its G Suite enterprise offering, dividing the existing Hangouts app into Hangouts Meet, a video chat program, and Hangouts Chat—which Townsend notes “looks a lot like Slack”:
Hangouts Chat is part of Google’s newest push to sell its office tools to big businesses as part of its bigger aim to take on Microsoft Office. Verizon recently switched from Office to G Suite. And the update to Hangouts Chat appears to be designed to compete with Slack. The feature will be available to G Suite customers who apply for access. The new app allows users to create virtual rooms (much like on Slack) where they can hold group conversations, and to break conversations off into threads.
Chat also includes a new bot for automatically scheduling meetings: When called up, @meet will compare Google Calendar schedules of chat participants to automatically pick an open time.
A Google executive tells Townsend that these new tools are not envisioned as a challenge to Slack, which itself already integrates with Google Drive. Nonetheless, Google has already been focusing its energies on developing chatbots and other tools powered by artificial intelligence, which also happens to be the focus of Slack’s long-term growth strategy. Indeed, the ability to integrate bots is a central feature of Google’s new product, Ken Yeung of VentureBeat observes:
[The @meet bot] is just the first bot supported on Hangouts Chat. Google told VentureBeat that developers will be able to add their own once the service becomes generally available to the public. … What’s interesting is that Google is thinking about bots and automated programs right from the beginning instead of waiting until later on. Whether developers flock to the platform or not remains a question, but being able to create a bot around the G Suite could be very appealing. …
A Google spokesperson told us that the main value proposition of this new product centers around its “tight integration with G Suite and the introduction of the Hangouts platform, which allows for intelligence to be built in via bots and as well as third-party applications from other enterprise tools.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft is expanding its Teams product to the global market, Geekwire’s Nat Levy reported last week, noting that Teams is already a leading contender to take over the workplace chat market:
A survey of IT pros by Austin-based IT network Spiceworks released in January found that Teams could pass Slack and Google Hangouts to become the second most used business chat app, behind only Skype for Business, in the next two years. Only 3 percent of businesses surveyed said they were using Microsoft Teams, but the survey found another 17 percent of companies planned to deploy Teams in the next two years. In contrast, adoption of Hangouts and Slack was only expected to rise a couple percentage points each, to 19 and 17 percent usage, respectively.