Google Takes Another Step Toward End-to-End UC

By Irwin Lazar
On Apr 23, 2014
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Google has made some curious moves into the enterprise communication and collaboration space as of late, capitalizing on Microsoft’s decision to end support for Windows XP to attempt to drive XP customers to Google Apps for Business (See “It’s time for real change” by Amit Singh, President of Google Enterprise), and announcing a partnership with Cisco at last month’s Enterprise Connect to demonstrate Cisco WebEx meetings running on a Chromebook. Google has long been an aggressive proponent of WebRTC, enabling browsers to function as voice, video, and screen-sharing endpoints without the need for downloads or additional plug-ins, even pushing its VP8 video codec as a royalty free alternative to H.264 for others to use to build browser-based video applications. As I noted in February, Google made a couple of announcements including delivering its first video room system (integrated with Hangouts) and a partnership to integrate standards-based video endpoints into Hangouts as well.

Also at Enterprise Connect, during the WebRTC track that I co-chaired, Keith McFarlane, CTO of LiveOps, a hosted contact center provider, discussed their plans around using Chromebooks for remote agents, enabling the agent to not only access the contact center application via Chrome, but also voice and even potentially video. As Google builds out its ecosystem, it is quietly creating a capability to support enterprise collaboration on low-cost hardware as well as via browsers, a potential competitive advantage versus Microsoft, without the complexity of virtual desktop infrastructure. Still, Google trails Microsoft significantly in marketshare; of the 30% of Nemertes’ 2013-14 benchmark participants who had adopted or were moving to cloud-based IM/calendar/office applications, just 27% were using Google versus 47% who were going with Office365.

Still, Google’s moves bear watching, especially for small businesses looking to support remote workers with minimal hardware investment, or for those looking to configure low-cost devices for guest or temporary worker access. Google’s leveraging of WebRTC should act to spur delivery of WebRTC solutions from its competitors as well.