Google today announced a rebranding and redesign of its suite of office applications, renaming G Suite under a new name: Google Workspace. Along with the new product branding that encompasses Gmail, Docs, Meet, Sheets, and Calendar, there are new features designed to make all of these products feel more integrated with each other. Google is also changing its pricing levels a bit, adding a new “Business Plus” tier with more device management features.
As an example of the new features, a chat window can generate a new document for everyone in the group without needing a new tab. And in Google Docs, instead of chasing each other’s cursors or opening a chat window, you can immediately start a video call right in the same window for everyone active in the document.
The idea of blowing up the idea of separate apps into smaller pieces that can be integrated in other places isn’t entirely new – Microsoft has tried the same with its Fluid framework in Office. The fact that Google is launching similar features in Google Workspace is a sign that it might try to seriously challenge Microsoft. If that’s too vague for you, the quote from Google Workspace VP Javier Soltero’s press release is much more explicit: “This is the end of the ‘office’ as we know it. “
Google has already taken steps in this new direction – integrating Google Meet into Gmail was a big step. Now, however, Google is hoping to attract more users with the convenience of fully integrated services that don’t make you look for another tab. It’s not that everything will live in one Gmail tab on the desktop, but whatever worksurface you use will be able to include elements from other worksurfaces.
Some small examples of this type of integration will be available from today. Google Workspace apps will allow users to view small previews of other documents embedded in the object they’re working on. Google will also expand the use of “smart chips,” which are small contact cards that can appear when you @ -mention someone in a document.
The most ambitious features, including creating a document directly from a chat window or initiating a video call from a presentation, will be rolled out “in the coming weeks” or “in the next few weeks. months to come ”. For non-business customers, these changes will be available later than for business users – again, “in the coming months”.
It must also be said that this is all very desktop-centric, focused on Google’s apps in web browsers like Chrome (and hopefully others). Beyond the aforementioned (and not universally appreciated) inclusion of Meet in Gmail, Google’s other mobile apps won’t be as tightly integrated to begin with.
Finally, Google is changing the iconography of its Google Workspace applications. I suspect there will be a global revolt over changing the Gmail icon from its familiar all-red M to the multi-colored one you see at the top of this article – with Calendar in second place for the most shocking change.
Soltero tells me that Google has no plans to reduce third-party app support in Google Workspace. If your team uses a mix of Google, Slack, Asana, Zoom, or whatever, that shouldn’t change. But the new integrations and the promise of fewer tab breaks show that Google is hoping more of its users will start using more of its products instead of the alternative.
As for Microsoft, these changes are unlikely to knock Office from its perch anytime soon. See these updates as a declaration of intent rather than a frontal assault. G Suite (now Google Workspace) experienced faster and more substantial updates in Soltero’s first year of responsibility than in several years before. It looks like Google is investing resources and preparing to fight with Office.