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Google's Hangouts Chat is now generally available through G Suite

The Slack-competitor boasts deep integrations with Docs, Drive and Calendar

Google mobile apps

Hangouts Chat, Google's answer to highly popular collaboration tool Slack, has been taken out of its beta phase and made generally available to all users through the G Suite platform.

Both Hangouts Chat and its video streaming platform, Hangouts Meet, were revealed at Google Cloud Next conference in March last year, but while the latter was released immediately to the public, its chat app has so far only been available as a private test version.

The newly released service works in essentially the same way as Slack or Microsoft Teams, offering a means for users to engage in group or private chats, only within the G Suite environment. As you might expect, the app works closely alongside Google's host of other services, including the option to launch video chats through Hangouts Meet, share content through Drive, and collaborate through the Docs app. It also supports up to 28 languages and can hold up to 8,000 members in each chat room.

Much like Slack, Google has also opened up the platform for those wanting to develop bots, with RingCentral, Salesforce, Kayak, Trello, and Xero, to name a few, having already released AI plugins for the service.

The problem for Google is that the collaboration market has become a fiercely contested arena, and those organisations that have already adopted existing services could be reluctant to make the switch given the disruption that may cause.

Much like Microsoft's Teams app and its integrations with Office 365, Google will be relying on the fact Hangouts Chat is built into the G Suite platform and will be able to take advantage of all the tools on offer, including its built-in security, all available through a single subscription.

In February the company announced it was upgrading the hardware it offers as part of its Hangouts Meet service, including a new camera that allows users to accommodate rooms of up to 20 people, and a better quality mic system that can be daisy-chained together to speakers in different rooms.

Hangouts Chat will be slowly rolled out to G Suite customers over the next seven days. Alongside the rollout, Google announced it's bringing Drive's Quick Access feature to Docs, an AI tool that recommends files based on activity and information found in your other documents.

The company also said that the Calendar app will soon get a similar AI-powered recommendation tool to help book meeting rooms based on your building, floor you work on, and booking history, a feature that's expected to arrive in the next few months.

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