Google today announced a major renaming and redesign of its suite of office applications, renaming the G Suite with a new name: Google Workspace. With new branding for a product that includes Gmail, Docs, Meetings, Sheets and Calendar, new features designed to make all of those products feel as if they are integrated with each other. Google has slightly changed its price tag and added a new “Business Plus” size with more device management features.
Example of new features: The chat window can create a new document for everyone in the group without the need for a new tab. In Google Docs, instead of having to chase each other’s cursors or open a chat window, everyone active in the document can instantly start a video call in the same window.
The idea of exploding the idea of individual applications into smaller pieces that can be embedded in other areas is not entirely new – Microsoft The office tries the same with its fluid structure. The introduction of similar capabilities by Google in the Google workplace is a sign that Microsoft may be trying to be serious in challenging. If this is too vague for you, Javie Soltero, the VP’s press release responsible for the Google workplace, is very outspoken: “This is the end of the ‘office’ as we know it.”
Google has already taken some steps in this new direction – integrating Google Meeting with Gmail is a big one. Now, Google hopes to attract even more users who will not be sent to search another tab with the convenience of fully integrated services. Not everything is going to live within the Gmail tab on the desktop, but any work surface you use can add elements from other work surfaces.
Some small examples of this type of integration will be available starting today. Google Workplace applications allow users to bring small previews of other documents embedded in the work they do. Google is expanding its use of “smart chips”, which are small contact cards that can pop-up when referring to someone in a document.
Most ambitious features, including creating a document directly from the chat window or launching a video call from the presentation, will be released in the “coming weeks” or “coming months”. For non-commercial customers, these changes will be available later than for business users – again, “in the coming months.”
These are all very desktop-centric, focusing on Google’s applications on web browsers (and hopefully others) like Chrome. Beyond the aforementioned (and globally undesirable) addition to Meet Gmail, it will not be tightly integrated to launch other Google mobile applications.
Finally, Google is changing the iconography for its Google workplace applications. I suspect there will be a global revolt over the idea of changing the Gmail icon from its familiar all-red M to the many colors you see at the top of this post – the second quiz for the worst change with the calendar.
Soltero tells me that Google has no intention of reducing support for third-party applications in the workplace. If your team uses Google services, slack, asana, zoom or anything else, nothing should change there. But the new integrations and less tab-hopping promise show that Google hopes more and more of its users will start using its products more instead of the alternative.
As for Microsoft, these changes are unlikely to knock Office out of its bench at any time. Think of these updates as a statement of intent rather than a frontal attack. The G Suite (now Google Workspace) has seen responsible and significant updates in the first year of Soltero, more than it was many years ago. It’s like putting Google resources together and getting ready to fight with the office.