Google is to shovel yet more bells and whistles into its Gmail client in an effort to demonstrate its collaborative chops in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Javier Soltero, who skipped away from the doomed Cortana business at Microsoft in 2018 and is now veep of G Suite, talked up the integrated workspace, which combines Gmail, Chat and Meet.
Soltero also acknowledged the sudden shifts in priority that have changed what were long-term goals into all too urgent needs as businesses rapidly adapted to remote working. The change has meant that Google has found itself needing to find a response to the Slack and Teams collaboration behemoths, and so here we are.
"A better home for work," according to Google. As long as that home is Gmail, it would seem, as the Chocolate Factory continues to cram toys into it. The team has already integrated video meetings into the Inbox via Meet and dropped Chat into Gmail last month (for web – Android and iOS versions will follow).
Chat rooms are getting an extra tickle with the collaboration brush, with shared files and tasks aimed at making the platform more suitable for longer term projects.
In what a cynic might regard as a swipe at Slack's more recent output and a glaring omission in Teams, Google also noted: "Chat lets you create rooms that include people outside your company, like contractors or consultants, so your group can be not only cross-functional but also cross-organizational."
Poor Gmail is also to be on the receiving of the ability to open and co-edit a document as well access to third-party apps, such as Trello or Salesforce. The plan is that by integrating things in one place, users need not flit from one window to another to discuss that project to migrate to Microsoft 365.
Gmail's search facility has been expanded to include the contents of a user's Chat, and a user can also pin important rooms to make them easier to find.
If you're embedded in the Google world, it appears impressive, although there is no guarantee you will have access to the integrated workspace immediately. A sign-up is required and the company will be rolling it out to more customers over the coming weeks: "You'll be notified when it's ready for you to try."
The updates are the latest example of Google's attempts to shore up its tools in the face of the workplace changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. More are on the way, including picture-in-picture video calls in Gmail and Meet slithering into the likes of Docs and Sheets. ®