It’s just been a week when Google announced that its Hangout application would be available as an upgrade from Gmail Chat. And the good thing is that the offering is already being pushed out to Gmail users in India as well (as an option, of course). 
Well, the not-so-good thing, as it may appear to users accustomed to Google’s other ‘real-time communication services’ is that in the long run, some of those services may get cannibalized—that is, if Hangout becomes an overwhelming cross-platform success.
But then again, it may not really be a bad thing—for the users as well as for Google. An integration-led consolidation of various Google services like chat, video chat and calling services could actually simplify things for users, while for Google that would translate into an obvious saving into development monies on so many diverse services.
No wonder that Google itself noted in its official Gmail blog post dated May 15: “Instead of different versions of chat, video chat and calling across Google products, Hangouts gives you one consistent way to connect with the people you care about.” Even more significantly, the Hangout app’s title on Google’s Android store Play reads, “Hangout (replaces Talk).”
As the Gmail blog post highlighted, “Hangouts transition effortlessly between desktop and mobile — in fact, Hangouts will be available in Gmail, Google+, Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and as a Windows, Mac or Linux desktop application using the Chrome extension. You can start a Hangout on your phone, and pick it up in Gmail right where you left off!”
Interestingly, Hangout’s integration with Gmail, which I actually found to be quite seamless, and its availability as a cross-platform app, pits it openly against some popular apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. And in fact, that’s where the real test would lie for Hangout. It would be worth watching how many Hangout apps are downloaded on Andriod and iOS platforms (Google is yet to make it available for the BlackBerry and Windows Phone platforms.)
As per a May 21 update, the Hangout app on Google Play store had received an average rating of 3.5 from 52,811 users. 22,653 users gave the app five stars; 7,352 gave four stars; 5,832 three stars; 3,822 two stars, and a significant 13,152 gave just one star.
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