For the past few weeks, we’ve been experimenting with Google+ Hangout as a virtual meeting place. The change was prompted by the addition of a new member to our development team who is geographically distant from my partner and I. I’m not sure if Google had intended to create the perfect virtual business meeting environment, but Google+ Hangout is fairly close to my ideal virtual meeting space. Here’s why:
It supports video, voice and text conferencing
This is what I refer to as the “minimum bar” for a virtual meeting space – the ability to have a conference with video, audio and/or text. My only (minor) gripe is that there’s no button to export the group text chat to an email. If I want to keep a record of the group chat, I have to cut-and-paste from the text chat window.
It supports screen sharing
Each meeting member can share their screens – be it the entire desktop or one of the running applications windows. The screen share replaces the sharing member’s video view – perfect for demo-ing the latest build!
Real-time collaboration through Hangout Apps
Here’s where Google+ Hangout really shines – the available Google Apps support real-time collaboration. The apps we’ve explored so far are:
- Cacoo for Hangout – real-time collaborative diagram creation and editing. It supports virtually all the types of diagrams I could possibly think of (and then some). The only downsides are (1) the app is prone to hanging and (2) the native saved files can’t be saved to local disk or to Google Docs.
- You Tube - supports synchronized video playback and on-the-fly “voice over” support. A small but powerful set of video presentation tools.
- Google Docs – real-time collaboration on text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and diagrams. Best of all, all modifications are saved to file in a Google Docs account.
Expect to see more apps as Google+ Hangout grows in popularity.
Custom app creation functionality
Google+ Hangout has released the Hangout API so web developers can create their custom Hangout apps – all this for free!
Did I mention it doesn’t cost anything? It’s the perfect price for teams on a small budget.