Google has released a new update to its chat tool Hangouts. The aim is to suit it to workplaces so the Alphabet Inc unit can compete with business software makers including Microsoft Corp and Slack Technologies Inc. The Hangouts Chat supports instant messaging across devices for workers and also group conversations. So a user can now also integrate widgets to access data from other software into a chat window. Although the service was launched last year, it only became available on Wednesday, 28 February.

Hangouts Chat is in the Google’s G Suite which is a software developed for workplaces, facilitating email and word-processing tools. It launched as a free service in 2013 but soon it was attuned to businesses. This move helped to get in companies which use same features for its internal communications. The paid version of this currently supports 28 languages and there can be up to 8,000 members. Messages also save indefinitely by default, but granular controls are available. What is important to note is Google already has an ecosystem of partners to integrate with Chat. There are also built-in file uploads to Drive, Docs collaboration, etc. The update uses Google-developed artificial intelligence for understanding the timings of an individual’s work habits and thus schedule a meeting. The artificial intelligence will also be integrated with the calendar software facility. So it can suggest a meeting location after analyzing a company’s conference room listings and seating chart.

“I see this as the second incantation of Hangouts. We want to move toward helping people move faster at work,” Scott Johnston, director of product management at Google, said in an interview. The Hangouts Chat also pairs with Google’s teleconferencing software Hangouts Meet which was introduced last year. The update has an advantage that anyone who is using a part of G-Suite is already using the Hangouts, so they do not need to pay extra for this. Companies can link their databases with Hangouts Chat. For instance, teams at Google have integrated their bug-tracking, employee directory and IT support systems.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 01, 2018 12:56 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website