/// Google Plus Goes to the Office
NYTimes.com – Google announced Wednesday that it is integrating features from Google Plus, its large but underutilized social network, with Google Apps, the online document, calendar and spreadsheet service that Google sells to corporations. (It has free versions for consumers.)
The most intriguing feature here is probably the integration of Hangouts, a video chat service for up to 10 people at once, with calendars, e-mail, and documents. It’s still early on, but it’s easy to see how this could be an efficient way to bring workers to a virtual meeting, collaborate during it and embed in a calendar the future work commitments and follow-up that result.
People will be able to place restricted posts in Google Plus, which only go to people inside an organization. Google said it would include controls that keep inside news inside. That wall between the company and the world may be hard to maintain, however. On Facebook Tuesday an executive shared with “friends” outside the workplace his memo to the troops concerning a mass layoff.
Google also said it would be announcing more features in coming months, including mobile services and more administrative controls.
There are a number of ways to look at the integration of Google Plus and Apps. The sour grapes version is that Google Plus isn’t getting anything like the buzz or traffic of Facebook, so Google is figuring out other ways to make the service relevant. Less judgmentally, it’s another sign of the consumer technology drifting into the enterprise.
Services like Yammer (recently bought by Microsoft for $1.2 billion) and Salesforce’s Chatter are two of several ways companies are adopting social technology. Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, has declared Chatter and similar efforts so significant that Salesforce has been “reborn social.”
Open Table, the restaurant reservation service, Hipmunk, the flight scheduling service, and Evernote, a virtual memory service, are all consumer products that offer enterprise versions.
While business looks like the follower here, its communication and collaboration needs may make social networking more valuable than it is in the consumer world. Companies pay for these services, after all. We may use Facebook a lot to talk about our lives, but few of us click on the ads there.