Google is bringing Hangouts more in line with competing messaging services, such as Skype or AIM, by releasing a dedicated desktop app for Hangouts. The Hangouts Chrome App, available on Chrome OS and Windows, will provide a similar experience to the Android version, including calls and messaging, but through a desktop interface.
Taking a leaf from Facebook, the app uses a Chat Head-style messaging interface, with circular icons showing ongoing hangout conversations. New messages will appear as notifications out from the side of the relevant icon, with the app offering the same voice and video calling functionality of the mobile and web versions. Users of Google Voice will also find that support for the service is also included in the app, shortly after mobile versions were updated, allowing access to voicemail, text messages, and outbound calls to other phones.
Despite being installed via the Chrome Webstore, just like other Chrome extensions, it will be able to run even if the Chrome browser is not open. Existing users of the Hangouts Chrome Extension will still be able to use that instead, but will be nudged towards the app version in the coming weeks. Mac users do not appear to benefit, as today's announcement only applies to Windows and Chrome OS versions, and Google does not mention Mac support at all in its blog post.