Google's new enterprise chat app will take on Slack, Flock

Google's new enterprise chat app will take on Slack, Flock
1 Mar, 2018

Internet giant Google has launched an enterprise messaging service, Hangouts Chat, as it seeks to take on similar offerings by Slack, Microsoft, Facebook, Alibaba and Indian app Flock.

The tool, which was announced last March and offered in beta mode to early adopters, is part of Google's G Suite of services. G Suite is a workplace software package that includes email and word-processing tools.

"We just announced some new G Suite products and features to help your organization collaborate more effectively and efficiently," Google wrote in a blog post. "As part of that announcement, we introduced Hangouts Chat as a core service."

The app, available on desktop browsers, iOS and Android, is an update to the existing Hangouts internet chat tool. It is different from the Hangouts Meet app, which allows videoconferencing. 

Google is billing integrations with other G Suite services including Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Sheets as a key selling point for Hangouts Chat.

Just like other team messaging apps, Hangouts Chat comes with 'channels' functionality that allows intra-company communication with an 8,000-member support for each channel.  

The app also supports chatbots and comes with 25 of them in-built such as the Google Drive bot. Other bots can also be integrated with services such as Salesforce CRM. 

Google also said that its new app can use artificial intelligence to speed up workflows. 

"When your teams collaborate in Chat, you can speed up manual work, like booking conference rooms, searching for files and more using artificial intelligence," it said in a blog post. The app, which supports 28 languages, allows admins to archive, preserve, search and export chat-specific data.

Google has not been particularly succesful with its chat apps strategy. In the last year-and-a-half, it launched Google Allo and Google Duo for messaging and video chats respectively, but the apps never quite took off. 

Google's main enteprise chat competitors are Microsoft Teams, Slack and Facebook's Workplace. 

In India, there is also Flock, which is headed by serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia. Alibaba-backed Chinese firm DingTalk has also decided to enter India.

In a separate development, Google said that it was making available a set of educational resources developed by machine learning experts at the firm to help learn about the technology, develop skills and apply artficial intelligence to real-world problems.

"Learn with Google AI comes with existing content as well as the new Machine Learning Crash Course (MLCC)," Google said in a statement. 

MLCC is a fast-paced introduction to practical ML concepts using high-level TensorFlow (TF) APIs.

As part of the initiative, users can learn about a set of key ML algorithms and frameworks, and enable them to practice implementation with Tensorflow APIs. 

The course features videos from ML experts at Google, interactive visualisations illustrating ML concepts, coding exercises using cutting-edge TensorFlow APIs, and a pragmatic focus that teaches how practitioners implement ML in the real world, Google said in a statement.

Google’s engineering education team originally developed this practical introduction to ML fundamentals for Googlers. 

So far, more than 18,000 Googlers have enrolled in MLCC, applying lessons from the course to enhance camera calibration for Daydream devices, build virtual reality for Google Earth, and improve streaming quality at YouTube.