Google has now confirmed that its enterprise-level conferencing solution, Hangouts Meet, is in preparation for Microsoft's new Chromium-based Edge browser on preview channels and that it will receive full support once it arrives more widely at least one source reports. The search giant hasn't provided an exact timeline for when that will become available but says that it views the spread of Chromium and WebRTC as having a net positive impact on communications overall.
The news comes in the wake of reports that had suggested Google might block access to the tool, holding onto it as a Chrome exclusive — effectively keeping it off of the company's official list of browsers where it is supported. The beta builds of Edge had supported the tool before some code was changed, rendering it unusable on that platform. At the time, a pop-up had appeared asking users to download Chrome or Firefox instead.
The spread of Chrome and rebirth of the enterprise
Concerns about whether or not Google planned to block its Hangouts web tools from Microsoft's upcoming browser are not entirely unfounded either. The search giant's dominance in the browsing world, both on mobile and desktop, means that not only have plenty of developers spent years optimizing their sites to work better on Chrome.
Google itself has taken a similar approach in the past and has gone so far as to limit what works outside of its own browser or the extent to which things work.
Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge stands to become a bigger competitor in the browser segment too, so it wouldn't be altogether surprising for Google to pull back on support for some of its features or services. The shift to Blink and away from Edge will mean the browser can be updated more quickly and will work better with a wider variety of sites and extensions.
Microsoft Edge has held out as being among the leading enterprise options for browsing as well, and that could be viewed as a source of contention with consideration for where Google is taking its Hangouts app and tool.
The company announced last year that it would be bringing the service completely to an end in 2020 on the consumer side of the equation. On the business end of that, Google has split its service into Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, both of which will ensure that businesses using Edge can work with one of the most popular enterprise suites available.
The likely culprit
The removal of Hangouts from the initial Edge beta builds could easily have been seen as a way for Google to consolidate its grip on enterprise but there are plenty of other reasons it may have been removed too.
The most probable cause, in this case, could simply be that Edge itself is still in beta and hasn't actually been launched at all yet. That means that it probably isn't complete and hasn't likely adopted all of the bits and pieces of Chromium that it eventually will and may not have worked at all with Hangouts regardless of whether Google pulled it for now.
In that situation, it makes more sense for Google to pull the application that will no longer be working until Microsoft development catches up and work can proceed in a way that's more similar to standard Chrome builds. In future releases, Edge will continue to be split between developer and user variants.