Virtual meetings: Tech giants in a race to provide best video call experience

May 2, 2020 9:03 AM

The myriad of options available means that users can choose their video calling platform according to their needs.

video calling, video conference, video calling apps, video conference apps, Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook messenger, Messenger Rooms, whatsapp video callEarlier, Google announced that its video conference product, Meet, will soon be available for free. (Representational image)

By Anwesha Ganguly

The largest software companies are stepping up their game to compete with Zoom and meet the increasing demand for video calling as more people self-isolate to limit the spread of Covid-19. Last month, users grew wary of using Zoom after critical security issues came to light, giving Google, Microsoft and Facebook a window of opportunity to rope in more users with free services and new features.

Earlier this week, Google announced that its video conference product, Meet, will soon be available for free. Google Meet is a part of the company’s G Suite paid productivity apps. “Starting in early May, anyone with an email address can sign up for Meet and enjoy many of the same features available to our business and education users,” said Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager, G Suite. Over the next few weeks, Google will gradually make the app freely available to everyone. Google Meet’s daily meeting participants stood at around 100 million as of last week, compared to Zoom’s 300 million.

Microsoft Teams, meanwhile, announced that the number of users visible on its screen would be ramped up from four to nine. It has started rolling out this feature to customers and working to increase the limit further, an employee said.

In April, Teams saw more than 200 million daily meeting participants, still much lower compared with Zoom. In April, Microsoft-owned Skype, one of the older players in the video-calling space, also started prominently promoting its video conference feature, Meet Now. The feature, which was rolled out in December 2019, allows up to 50 people including non-Skype users to join a video call using a web link.

Facebook, on the other hand, is using its social media presence to introduce new video chat features through its apps. In April, Facebook had launched a desktop app for video chats. Just last week, the company launched “Messenger Rooms,” which lets users create a video chat room from their Facebook or messenger apps. “Rooms will soon hold up to 50 people with no time limit,” the company said. Rooms can be created and shared through the Facebook news feed, or in groups. Rooms will soon be available on other Facebook’s apps including Instagram and WhatsApp. The social media giant is also planning to launch options like Facebook Dating for virtual dating through video call. WhatsApp messenger’s latest update allows up to eight people to connect through video call on WhatsApp messenger.

The myriad of options available means that users can choose their video calling platform according to their needs. “If the HR team needs to take virtual yoga classes for employees, a Zoom call will be enough. But the more sensitive meetings are carried out over Microsoft Teams,” said a senior executive from the Aditya Birla Group.

An Indian infrastructure major, which has been conducting board meetings over Zoom during the lockdown, is considering using Google Meet going forward, a senior executive said. “We have used Zoom for two meetings so far. We may consider using Google Meet next time since it is being made freely available and may be more secure,” the executive said.

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