Following some moves that Google began last October, when Google began allowing Google Apps For Business users access to Google+, the search engine giant announced today several more features that are aimed at pushing Google-branded social experiences deeper into the business industry. Google is specifically rolling out more support for some restricted sharing options, some video meetings integrated with Google services like Gmail, Calendar and Docs, along with some additional administrative controls that are within Google+ with today’s official public launch of Google+’s enterprise offering.
Google’s Vice President of Enterprise, Amit Singh, told TechCrunch back in December of 2011 that the company had already been using Google+ as a collaboration platform internally. That said, the tools were already there, but Google wasn’t ready to release it publicly at the time. They promised that it would be bringing Google+ to the enterprise market sometime in 2012. “Google+ is the next big thing for the enterprise,” he said at the time. “We are going to do the same thing with Google+ that we’ve done with Gmail, and other consumer-facing apps so that Google+ can be adopted in more of enterprise setting.” That said, it’s finally here and available for use!
Just today, Clay Bavor, the Product Management Director, Google Apps wrote on the Google Enterprise Blog, that the company is finally ready to move some of the Google+ enterprise features into a sort of “full preview”mode. That means that any organization that has used the Google Apps service can now try these new features for free until the end of 2013 (so, you have a bit over a year to use it for free). I think this is a key part of the information that was released today. It implies that Google wants to eventually charge for these social collaboration tools, similar as to how the company already charges for its online productivity tools today, which includes Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs. Keep in mind that this isn’t going to be affecting your regular Google+ service, this is just for the business world to take advantage of. For the every day user, Google+ will remain free, much like Facebook is.
Bavor has said that the initial tools that are currently being rolled out are only the first of several. He adds that Google will continue to add more features to it along with admin controls in time. What’s cool is that Bavor has said that some companies are already testing the new enterprise features. Among those companies are Kaplan and Banshee Wines. But, everyone probably doesn’t care about that as much as they want to know what features are being opened today for Google Apps users to test drive. The first thing that is being opened up is private sharing, this will allow users to mark posts as “restricted,” making them only available for their organization and will render the ability to re-share them externally useless. These posts that are made can also be shared with outside partners too. You can only imagine how handy of a feature that is, especially for such a big company like Google.
Video meetings or “Hangouts”, which is the group chat feature that will allow you to talk with 10 users face-to-face using webcams or smartphones. The service is now integrated with Gmail in Google Apps, along with Calendar and Docs for Google Apps users. What you should know is that this isn’t just a business-only option. If you had kept up with the news you should know that Google had added Google+ Hangouts to Gmail last month in July. Google Hangouts have also been supported in Google Calendar. It’s a cool feature really, I think it’ll benefit both sides of things — business users and the general public.
The last think Bavor talked about was some additional admin controls for business users. Apparently, this is the most critical part of the entire service. As with Google Apps, the admin controls integrated in Google+ allow companies to set various defaults for post restrictions. They can also enable restricted Hangouts for various private company meetings. Google hasn’t announced any details on pricing nor have they released any information as to what is planned next. I can only imagine ho helpful this service will be to business owners. As I said earlier, it’ll definitely be a big help to companies like Google or Blizzard and even Microsoft due to its easy accessibility. Being able to have a company meeting via Google Hangouts while the CEO is in New York, the Graphic Artists are in Florida and the Vice-President is in Hawaii on a family vacation is already a nice feature, but adding restricted access to it will definitely bolster the use of the service, I think.
I’m no business owner, but having private posts go out to the Company will probably also be very helpful. If they somehow added a email notification to that service I think that would be amazing. That way, your employee’s would be able to be right on the ball when you post something to the company on Google+, since most employee’s have their email open all day.
These new features being added to Google+ is really awesome. As I said, a lot of business users are going to find this really helpful. I think the deciding factor here is going to be what it’ll cost before businesses start moving in that direction. The service is free for a bit over a year (or until the end of 2013) so businesses also have a chance to give it a good test run. I think Google’s idea behind that is that businesses will love it so much that they’ll want to purchase a subscription. It’s a good marketing strategy and knowing Google, it’ll probably be really successful.
Is anyone looking to use these new Google+ features for your business? Have you already taken it for a test run? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear your opinion on the new features. I myself would really like to know how its working out.