Google has made its Meet video conferencing app accessible directly from Gmail, allowing users to join meetings without switching between apps.
Meet - it’s the rebranded version of Hangouts Meet - is available as part of Google’s G Suite, which now has six million paying business customers, up from five million in February 2019. The video app has seen a big increase in use as remote work booms worldwide.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced earlier this month that at one point two million new Meet users were being added a day, with 60 per cent day-over-day growth.
By enabling users to access the video app from Gmail, Google hopes to make it faster and easier to start video meetings. “Our goal is to help you follow the flow of the day, seamlessly switching between email and video meetings—whichever form of communication you need,” the company said in a blog post last week.
Options to start or join a meeting are available in the left hand panel of Gmail. When starting a meeting, a new window opens with a “secure, unique” URL. Those joining a meeting can enter a meeting code provided by the organiser, or start an ad hoc one by choosing a meeting name, such as “quick catch-up.” This can be shared with colleagues within the same G Suite domain and typed into the “Join a meeting” bar to get started.
Access to Meet within Gmail is currently available in web browsers only as part of a gradual rollout to users. A mobile app version is “coming soon,” Google said.
Demand for video capabilities has surged in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, and software vendors are competing to capitalise on that demand. As well as touting its security credentials in an interview with Reuters last week, Google vice president Javier Soltero said that later this month Meet will be able to display up to 16 call participants at once.
The ability to access Meet directly from Gmail plays to Google’s strengths due to the popularity of Gmail; it serves as the focal point for workplace collaboration in G suite. Google integrated its team chat app platform, Hangouts Chat, with the email client last year.
Almost two out of three (60 per cent) of IT decision makers prefer a single unified communications tool, according to a recent 451 Research survey, while one in three (34 per cent) cite user experience as the main reason to use a single unified communications tool.
“The integration of chat and video communications into Gmail should provide a more streamlined experience in G Suite that better aligns with user workflows, reducing friction for the end user,” said Raul Castanon, senior analyst for workforce collaboration at 451 Research / S&P Global Market Intelligence.
“This should close a gap with key rival Microsoft, which has leveraged its dominance with its productivity suite to gain market traction for Teams. It should also strengthen its position against standalone ‘best of breed’ competitors Slack and Zoom, which have emerged as a competitive threat.”