Last week, Google made news with its announcement that it was making its premium, secure Google Meet video service (part of G Suite) free for the masses. It was a timely move on Google’s part, given the need for secure, reliable video conferencing tools to cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. I did a flyby of the announcement which you can read here if interested. Today I wanted to dig a little deeper on some new features announced for Meet, along with some customer stories of utilizing G Suite and Meet in the time of COVID-19. Let’s dive in.
A brief recap
In case you missed the original announcement, starting this month, anyone with an email address will be able to access a free version of Google Meet. The free version comes with screen sharing capabilities, simple scheduling, adaptable layout options, and real time captioning. A big plus of Google Meet is its built-in security—all video meetings are encrypted during transit and rest, and hosts have the ultimate say in who is admitted, denied, muted, or removed from the conference. Google Meet has already found success in the age of coronavirus—last week the company shared that it was bringing in 3 million new users every day, with around 100 million video meeting participants and approximately 2 billion minutes of video daily. The release of the no-cost version stands to keep this impressive momentum going for the company.
Addressing customer requests with new features
Google also took the opportunity to unveil four new advanced features for Meet—according to Google, the four most-requested features by customers. Meet now has an expanded tiled layout option, which can display as many as 16 meeting attendees at once. Before this update, users were limited to seeing four people at a time. While it still falls shy of its competitors (Cisco WebEx supports up to 25 per screen, and Zoom supports up to 49), this is a welcome change that should make Meet a more viable alternative option for those turned off by Zoom’s liabilities.
Additionally, Google unveiled a new capability that lets users screen share a Chrome tab, as opposed to their entire screen or entire window. Google says this feature will enable its users to share better quality video and audio content with conference attendees. The company is also in the process of rolling out a low-light mode to its mobile users, which leverages AI to adjust video to improve visibility in poorly lit conditions. Google says the feature will ultimately be available to web users as well. The final feature Google says it is in the process of rolling out is intelligent noise cancellation, which it says will be able to filter out background noise such as a barking dog, keystrokes, or perhaps in the current work-from-home climate, noisy kids.
All of these new features come on the heels of Google’s announcement back at the beginning of March that it would extend free access to Google Meet’s advanced video-conferencing capabilities (typically relegated to Enterprise and Enterprise for Education users) to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. These premium features include the ability to record and save meetings to Google Drive, the ability to live stream in front of as many as 100,000 viewers within a domain, and the ability to hold larger meetings with as many as 250 attendees per conference. These features will be available to Google’s customers for free until the end of this coming September.
Helping customers during an unprecedented time
Last month Google shared the stories of some of its G Suite customers and how they’ve utilized G Suite and Google Meets to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. I wanted to share a few of those that caught my eye. The Cambridge Health Alliance serves approximately 140,000 patients across its three hospitals and 15 health centers in the Boston area (one of the harder hit parts of the country to date). James LaPlante, the organization’s senior director of Technology and Biomedical Services, says that G Suite and Meet have been integral for its staff and caregivers to coordinate between its facilities during the crisis. It’s not a stretch to say that G Suite has literally helped those on the frontlines save lives.
Another interesting story comes from the Mexican television cable news channel Milenio Televisión, who utilizes Meet for its high quality image and sound, as well as its security. One of the channel’s anchors recently went into voluntary self-quarantine after suspecting they had been in contact with an infected person at a convention. Thanks to Meet, the anchor has been able to continue doing broadcasts from home. The channel says it now broadcasts several shows through meet. Additionally, it says it utilizes the tool to hold conferences with foreign correspondents in other countries.
Another example given was the Phillipines’ Department of ICT, which is responsible for the country’s planning and development of information and communications technology. Last year, the department began migrating to its GovMail communication platform, built on G Suite, Google Chat, and Google Meet. According to the department’s Assistant Secretary, Emmanuel Rey Caintic, the switch to the cloud-based platform has been particularly useful in remotely maintaining government operations and aiding coordination between departments during the pandemic crisis. Similarly, Peru’s Judiciary branch is continuing its operations during quarantine with the help of Meet.
Singapore’s NTUC Fairprice Co-Operative, the country’s largest supermarket chain, says G Suite has enabled its workforce (of which a majority now works remotely) to handle the increased demand brought on by customers stocking up and prepping for the pandemic. Anybody who has been in a grocery store in the last two months knows what a herculean task it must be to keep the shelves stocked and manage operations right now.
These specific stories stood out to me as powerful because they illustrate how G Suite and Meet are rising to the occasion and aiding organizations who perform “essential” functions during this time—health systems, governments, the news media, grocery stores, and more. But it doesn’t end there—many other organizations owe their ability to migrate their workforces to work-from-home in large part to Google and G Suite.
As we adjust to the “new normal,” and the world shifts, perhaps permanently, towards a more flexible, work-from-home model, there will be technology winners and losers. Judging by the recent user growth numbers, Google Meet is in the former category. Clearly Google senses the opportunity, and is doing what it can to make Meet the most attractive option for those newly in the market for a video collaboration solution. This includes leveraging customer feedback to guide the development of new features, as well as making a basic version of Meet free to all. From organizations on the very frontlines of the crisis, to those struggling to shift operations to work-from-home, Google’s customers seem to be happy with the ways G Suite and Meet are helping them cope.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.