Google is bolstering the appeal of Google+ to businesses by adding innovative workplace tools that the search giant hopes will bring in new business users for its ever-expanding services.
The new Google+ features include giving business users the ability to control who can see their posts on Google+, video conferencing that's integrated with other Google Apps, and new administrative controls over posts and who can view them, according to an Aug. 29 post on the Google Official Enterprise Blog.
"On the Google Apps team, we wake up every day excited to work on products that are powering a fundamental shift in business technologies," wrote Clay Bavor, product management director for Google Apps. "Whole companies are moving into the cloud, where they rely on the same Web-based applications their employees use at home: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Drive."
As part of that trend, Google is extending the Google Apps portfolio using the social tools built into Google+, wrote Bavor, to "help colleagues collaborate more easily and get things done-and get to know each other along the way."
With that in mind, Google is launching the first set of Google+ features designed specifically for businesses, and is making them available first in a "preview mode" to Google Apps customers. "During this preview period, organizations that have gone Google will be able to use the business features of Google+ for free through the end of 2013 while we continue to add more features and administrative controls designed for organizations," wrote Bavor.
So far, companies including Kaplan as well as Banshee Wines have been using Google+ in pilot projects to help employees engage and connect with each other, according to Bavor. Now the services are being expanded to other customers so Google can gain more feedback and refine the services even further.
When users post in Google+ today, they don't have the ability to restrict who can see their posts. Using the new tools, that will change, enabling users to mark posts as restricted only to certain users. "Restricted posts are private to your organization and can never be re-shared with anyone outside," wrote Bavor. "At the same time, when you create a post, you have the flexibility to share it with specific partners or colleagues outside the organization as well if you choose."
In July, Google gave its Gmail service a huge enterprise productivity feature-the ability to conduct multi-way video chat right through the Gmail interface. Up to 10 users at one time can participate in chats in what Google calls "hangouts." That feature is seen as a boon to Google Apps business users because it extends the platform for more collaboration without having to bring in additional applications, according to Google.
That's being extended even more by allowing users to add their hangout chats to their Google Calendar events under the new services, which will also allow attendees to join the meeting directly from the invite or from the Calendar entry, according to Google. Users are also now able to open a Google Doc inside a hangout so participants can collaborate on it right there.
For businesses, the new administrative controls are important for enterprises that want to have a direct say over who can see employee posts within a company, according to Google. By integrating such controls, the new Google+ and Google Apps tools can be seen in a more positive light for companies that are concerned about access issues. The controls can also be used to set restrictions on hangouts for online meetings within the company.
Other additional business-oriented Google+ and Google Apps features will continue to be unveiled, wrote Bavor. "We have a lot more planned for the coming months, including a mobile version of Google+ for enterprise users and more administrative controls."
Google's Gmail Voice and Video Chat have been around since November 2011 when the company unveiled them to expand its email services to users. The features allowed users to converse with and see their contacts on their computers in real time. One big feature of the service at that time was that users could initiate their video chat sessions right from Gmail without moving to another application.
Google launched a similar service, Google Talk Video Chat, for Android mobile smartphone users in April 2011, which provided video and voice chat capabilities to another core group of users.
In June, Google+ partnered with Flipboard to draw more users in to the Google+ community. That deal will add users' Google+ news streams to the Flipboard app for iPhones and iPads, joining similar streams of user content from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Instagram. Flipboard allows users to bring together all these forms of content in one place on their personal devices, making it easy to sort, read and review.