Google makes its Meet app ‘free’ to compete with Zoom

On Thursday, Google Inc announced that is had made its Meet app free for all users, with up to 100 people being able to connect simultaneously, as the US-based technology behemoth seeks to capitalise on the surging popularity of video conferencing apps. Earlier, the premium video conferencing app was available only for paid enterprise users of the GSuite.

This is the first time that a product designed for enterprise use is being extended to individual users, Smita Hashim, Director, Product Management, Google Cloud told ET. The Covid-19 pandemic has made video conferencing tools such as Zoom hugely popular, with people using it for office meetings as well as for social chats.

Earlier this week, Facebook also launched its Messenger Rooms app, where 50 people can participate in a call at the same time. Since video conferencing is an essential service, Google decided to extend its Meet offering to individual users for free on the lines of its other services such as Gmail or Maps, the Mountain View, California-based Hashim said in the exclusive interview.

“We’ve already seen how Google Meet has been helping a lot of businesses and schools. We kept seeing the need for a very secure as well as easy-to-use, high-quality service for individual users as well. These apps are being used in ways which are unprecedented right now…” she said.

Since January, Google has seen Meet’s daily usage grow by 30x and has been adding roughly 3 million new users every day, with Meet’s daily participants surpassing 100 million as of last week. All advanced features of Google Meet, which were previously available to enterprise customers, will be made available to G Suite customers as well.

The features include recording, streaming, in-person meetings and enhanced safety controls. Google also accelerated the development of some features that enable users to see more people during a conversation.

The San Francisco-headquartered search giant said video conferencing was seeing increased use across family, friends, hobby groups, parents and physicians.

“There’s so many ways in which people need video conferencing right now, even for business use it could be for tele-health, it could be retail, it could be again education. We really felt like there was a need for very secure, as well as reliable and high-quality product,” Hashim added.

Google Meet would be different from other popular apps because it would be highly secure and easy to use since there are already billions of Google accounts. Users will soon be able to access Meet by clicking its icon from the Google Chrome browser, she said.

The company is also confident its network infrastructure will scale up quickly to meet new demand, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has led to more people working remotely across the globe.

Google’s customers are talking about retaining work-from-home practices as they go forward, since it is working well for them, she said.

“We hear stories all the time from customers telling us how they’ve been productive, from schools on how they’ve been able to continue online teaching. I really do feel that the some of the changes here will hopefully stay as a society and also leave us a better place to live in,” Hashim said.

However, Meet will cut free calls after an hour starting in October, compared with no time limit on Messenger and Skype and a 40-minute restriction on consumer Zoom accounts. Free Meet calls also will be limited to no more than a single host and 100 participants – the same as Zoom’s free version but above the 50 on Messenger and Skype.

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