Yesterday Google launched their Google+ Hangouts on Air feature in Germany. That news made me take a look into Hangouts again after a while and very shortly in, I realised this is a great example of what I was talking about when I was talking about technology vs. products earlier this year: Again Google built an amazing technology, one that only very few would be capable of building not even talking about running, but fails miserably to communicate its use and make it into a real product. Caused by generalisation the normal end-user can’t really answer the question: why should I use it again?
The technology part
Just think about what this technology means: Google Hangouts isn’t only video chat, it incorporates groups. And by going “on air”, it means you can allow everyone to join - sure just 10 at a time for now, but public and live. Let me repeat this: Live Video not only broadcasted to everyone but also everyone can join in. Not only does this technology mean everybody can now do live television, but also you can have live collaborative television from all over the world. That is effing massive.
But it also requires huge amounts of data transfer, transcoding, delivery and plenty of CPU-Power. And in times where the second largest video distributor - vimeo - has troubles serving video on demand that sounds like a task impossible to tackle: real-time live video broadcasted by up to 10-changing-parties at a time to a audience of N. Only with an infrastructure like Youtube in your hands you’d even be close to make such a thing happen. And google just showed off: yes, they can.
And just think of what this means, where it could be used. Simply amazing. Google really is an infrastructure provider like no other.
The product part
But there lies the problem: they provide the infrastructure and the infrastructure only. Sure it is integrated in Google+ but that actually makes things worth. Because once you start thinking about the actual case, the task at hand, you see plenty of stuff is still missing. Let’s take a simple case of a virtual press conference, where up to 4 people - somewhere - in the world could now present for e.g. their research paper to a public audience and to the press. In that case one of them probably also wants to “moderate” the session: you only want one journalist to join at a time and and cut them off at any time.
Or let’s go to company interna: you want to do your weekly regional directors meeting with google+ hangouts. You need plenty of stuff around this, like a way to share documents and presentations. And I am not talking about google docs here, they are not sufficient for many big corp things (aside from the security implications). You can easily take this case and put it into any company-interna situation and you’ll quickly notice that the surrounding Google+ is missing substencial Features to even start thinking about doing it. Or go into the direction they actually point out on the website: concerts. Sure, great idea, but if you can only push in the content via a crappy Webcam and stereo-mics, I do not want to watch it. Aside from that the artists probably does not like the fact, that he/she can’t monitize it neither.
Less is more
As of now Google+ Hangouts are an amazing technology, but not more. It is the engine, but you still need the whole surrounding car with wheels a roof and seating - or storage space, depending on your need. Of course Google considers this to be part of the job of their community and the first developers already started working on Add-Ons (like the lower-third) but until that happens, this technology just looks useless to the user. And with their latest moves towards end-customers, they should really reconsider to build maybe one or two really great products ontop of hangouts, cutting down the technology to a specific usecase, and make them available under Google Domains/Apps for Business. To not only show their real usecase feature to (business) endconsumers but also show developers and Startups that there is a busines here and that way encourage them to actually build businesses here.
Because with their latest quickness in cutting down project and technologies, which are not market-ready yet, it otherwise quickly dies the way Google Buzz did. And as long as this is potentially the case, that google might gonna kill it in a month from now, building something on top of that technology is just a very high business risk. You can only do that as an add-on of your normal business and that means it probably won’t be using the full potential of the technology.