Another avenue for helping your parents with their borked OS just opened up in Google+ Hangouts with the addition of a remote desktop feature. The application, found in “Hangout Apps,” allows you to remotely control the computer of any member of your Hangout, assuming of course that they grant you permission.

Free applications such as GoToMyPC and LogMeIn that make remotely assisting people with their computers a fairly simple process have been around for a long time. Google further simplified the task by removing a barrier from the process, integrating the service into software that requires little additional effort on the part of the recipient of assistance. Software doesn’t need to be installed or configured like in the cases of the aforementioned applications or the built in remote desktop service in Windows.

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Perhaps one of the most prominent differentiating features, however, is the ability to carry on a video chat with the person on the other end while controlling their computer. When a novice user is trying to explain an issue while troubleshooting, text chat can complicate the process because of a lack of common terminology. Video chat doesn’t eliminate this issue, but allows for more flexible and faster dialogue that can help to move the process along.

Skype has had desktop sharing as a feature for quite some time, but Google+ is taking it a step further with full on remote desktop services which helps to further differentiate it from the alternatives. The audience for this product may be small, but it’s a step in the right direction in Google+’s battle for market share in the competitive social media ecosystem.