You knew this was coming. Google's latest attempt at social networking has everyone talking, but more importantly it has everyone trying to twist and mold it into specific user groups. While Wave didn't do so hot in anybody's pool, here's a look at why Plus -- an obvious consumer choice -- might make it in the Enterprise space.
First and foremost, Google is making a heavy play for organization. The Circles feature encourages you to sort the Google+ users you associate with into categories such as Friends, Colleagues, Family and Acquaintances. This allows you to post updates and share information with specified groups only:
Because users can create a Circle for whatever kind of group they wish -- a specific project team, for example -- it is much easier to control the primary area of Social Business that remains sketch: who has access to which information.
Another key point of Circles is the Internet giant's aim to create a general-purpose network. A user can connect with any other Google+ member, meaning that, unlike private enterprise social networking platforms such as Salesforce and Jive, you can use the app to communicate and collaborate with people outside of your organization-- contract employees, for example.
Facebook gives its own users a similar degree of control with the Lists feature. Unfortunately for Zuck, it's a fairly clunky offering in comparison and operates more like an afterthought than a central function.
Hangouts: A Virtual Water Cooler for Remote Teams
Hangouts is a built-in multi-user video chat tool, and a rumored Skype killer. The differences between the two platforms start right off the bat: rather than ping people in order to initiate a conversation, you literally 'hang out' in a room by advertising your presence with your face (your camera stream). If nobody is available to chat, you can let the app run in the background while you work.
When someone in the room speaks, their video stream is highlighted in a large central window while everyone else's sits in strip of smaller windows just beneath. Meanwhile, a built-in IM feature for chatting, sharing links and so on is available, as well as a YouTube feature which enables users to watch videos together.
As far as the enterprise goes, the handiness of the tool is certainly appealing (because it's browser based there's no extra-launching needed) and the approach allows for much more spontaneous collaboration than most other video chat apps on the market.
"Hangout is a Skype killer," wrote ZDNet's Dennis Howlett, point blank. "It could also kill WebEx and with a bit of extra tweaking I can see it knocking over Adobe Connect. Those are enterprisey tools that Google has effectively rolled up."
What if the information you needed could find you rather than the other way around? Sparks digs through the Web for articles related to a defined interest, making it easy for users to find relevant content.
This feature could obviously be useful in the workplace for research, or simply staying on top of industry news. A Share button also makes it easy to spread interesting data out to your Circles, and perhaps spark a meaningful conversation (get it?):
Not Yet in the Clear
Of course, if the competition really has something to worry about, it won't be for some time. Google+ is still in beta and needs a lot of users to make an impact worth noting (Facebook's count is somewhere around 750 million now).
Secondly, though it will obviously connect at some point, Plus isn’t yet hooked up with one of Google's largest pool of Enterprise users-- Apps accounts holders.
"The crunch will come if/when Google decides to charge for Plus as it should while addressing its enterprise privacy hangover," continues Howlett. "There is a ready market of GAPE customers out there who I’m sure will be fascinated with what Plus has to offer and be prepared to pay."
Considering the whole kit and caboodle: Plus features, Google's failed social attempts, privacy concerns, etc. would you be willing to pay for this foray into social business? Let us know in the comments below.