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May 21, 2014

Google Hangouts Plugin Allows Direct Access from Outlook

A new plugin from Google will allow users to conduct Google Hangouts video conferencing sessions directly from Microsoft Outlook. Calls can be made between users or by clicking a link to access a previously scheduled meeting.

Computers will need to be reasonably up-to-date to for the plugin to function. Systems must have the Windows 7 or 8 operating system in either the 32 or 64-bit versions; Mac is not supported. Outlook 2007 SP2 or later must also be installed. The final requirement is one of the following Google Apps versions: Business, education or government. Users with admin privileges can install the app on their PC via a download link on Google’s site.

One exception to these requirements applies to Chromebox users. As long as such users have a Google Apps account they can join video calls through the Chromebox for Meetings app.

Google’s new plugin is acknowledgement of a video conferencing industry that is predicted to see explosive growth the next few years. It may also be a concession to the installed base of Microsoft Office users.

The enterprise video market is expected to nearly triple from $11.21 billion in 2013 to $35.57 billion in 2018. It would be the height of folly for Google to miss out on this opportunity, even to users of a competing suite of products.

The cost saving potential of video conferencing and its reduced environmental impact are two major factors behind this growth. A 2010 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project predicted that video conferencing could reduce carbon emissions by 5.5 million metric tons by 2020 and save businesses $19 billion.

The U.S. federal government is another area where video conferencing can save money by eliminating travel expenses. A bill proposed by the House of Representatives in 2013, the “Cut the Waste, Stay in Place Act of 2013” sought to reduce $15 billion largely through increased use of video conferencing by government agencies.

Google’s new Outlook plugin will make it convenient for millions of users to have video calls and meetings. Its arrival comes as a bit of a surprise, given how much Google is pushing its Apps as an alternative to Office and the shift away from downloadable software with its integration with Vidyo to bring video to enterprises. Nonetheless, it is an important move from a business perspective for Google and for companies seeking to save on travel costs and reduce their environmental impact. 

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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