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Google Meet updates close in on Microsoft Teams, Zoom

The latest Google Meet features let participants see up to 49 people on-screen at a time. Other enhancements include better control over who gets access to meetings.

Google has introduced improvements to the Meet video conferencing service within G Suite. The latest features, including a view of up to 49 people in a meeting, match what's already available from competitors Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

The Google Meet updates launched last week mean many G Suite subscribers won't have to pay for a separate video conferencing service to get the latest features. "I expect a significant number of G Suite customers will adopt [Meet] and stop paying for alternative services," said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research.

Nemertes ranks Google Meet fifth in the video conferencing market. A June survey of 525 companies found that 8.5% of respondents use the Google service, compared with 31.5% using Microsoft Teams, 21% Cisco's Webex, 15.3% Zoom, and 10.9% Microsoft's Skype for Business.

Before the latest update, Google Meet capped at 16 the number of people seen during a meeting. To get to 49, Meet users will have to adjust a slider before every session. The new maximum is on par with Teams and Zoom.

Another improvement in the Google Meet updates applies only to the education version of G Suite. The change creates a "quick access" option that automatically admits people from the same domain as the host. Meeting hosts have the option of turning off the feature, so they can manually approve every person trying to join a meeting.

The importance of tight access control took center stage earlier this year, when pranksters and bad actors disrupted Zoom meetings before the vendor offered users more control. The hijacking of sessions, later dubbed Zoombombing, gained public attention early in the pandemic as the number of people working from home grew.

Recent G Suite updates

Google has also made several improvements to the G Suite productivity suite beyond Meet. A change to the admin console gives administrators greater control over Google Groups. Admins can now pick who can create and change the settings for Groups. The service lets users create discussion groups for people with common interests.

Also, Android users may now edit Microsoft Office files on their devices, using Google Docs, Sheets and Slides to make changes and comments.

The recent improvements within G Suite are unlikely to spur large companies to shift from Microsoft 365 to Google. However, Google could continue to attract small and midsize businesses looking for a less expensive alternative to the Microsoft suite, Lazar said.

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