Enterprise Collaboration App Earns Google's Spotlight

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How do you get your Google+ app featured at Google's blockbuster I/O conference? According to Bjorn Haugland, the CEO of Symphonical, you just invite product manager Amit Fulay to join you in a Hangouts video chat and show him your stuff.

Symphonical makes it possible for multiple users to co-create content in Hangouts and continue to access it afterward, by using a Google ID to log in to a project stored on Symphonical's website. The app, which was still in beta with only about 3,000 users, was spotlighted in Fulay's presentation on Wednesday and will participate in the so-called sandbox of featured products that run on Google's platform that begins Thursday morning.

Haugland said he knew his team was on track when Fulay quickly created his own sticky note on the virtual whiteboard the app serves up and wrote on it, "I love this interface."

Indeed, the app is very simple to use and delivers a familiar Google flavor with its combination of bright colors and white space. Users can choose from a set of common templates, including a week at a glance and a to-do list, to organize a set of sticky notes, replicating the whiteboard experience of a company meeting.

Three months ago, Hangouts began supporting apps that allowed users to tailor-make their video chat sessions. Most but not all of the apps were Google's own. On Wednesday, Google said more than 200 apps had been built to work on the Hangouts platform, more than doubling the average time spent in the chats. Among those apps was Symphonical, which, along with seven others, joined the list of apps Google features.

Symphonical began to target Google Hangouts when the company first announced that it would allow third-party apps to run within the video chat.

Symphonical is unique in being an enterprise app featured on Google's social networking offering, Google+. Of course, with a simple, intuitive interface, the app's uses aren't limited to the enterprise uses Google spotlights in its announcement. Haugland described event planning and school projects as some of its uses, for instance.

The app is arguably easier to use within Hangouts than Google Docs, which Google has pitched to enterprise users. It offers three different privacy settings for content shared. Unlike Google Docs, it displays profile icons for each user who can see shared content, reducing the chances that administrators will lose track of who can see a particular document.

The app's main weakness to date is its lack of integration with other applications. Users using the sticky-note-on-whiteboard process to develop and assign a specific task, for example, would likely want to save the task as a calendar item or a to-do item in a project management service such as Basecamp.

Haugland said the company was working on offering Google Calendar integration. Within the next few months, the app will also launch a user experience customized for mobile devices, Haugland said.

Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.

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