Google has fired a rebrandogun loaded with fresh icons (and tweaks to functions, features and per-user storage) at its G Suite platform. Prepare to relinquish the suite life and put nose to the grindstone in Google's "Workspace".
G Suite was Google's take on an online productivity and collaboration platform, which included the likes of Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets and so on. Over the last year, the company has been attempting to link things together. For example, Meet was shoehorned into Gmail back in April and last month the Chocolate Factory showed off hardware built to foster collaboration in a business setting.
Archrival Microsoft also has a range of gear to deposit on enterprise desks and in meeting rooms. In fact the seeming ubiquity of Microsoft 365 makes the six million paying Google Workspace business users appear a little weedy in comparison.
Enter the rebrandogun and "a new brand identity" because, frankly, "G Suite" sounds a bit like a character from the Half Life franchise or a 1970s sofa.
The G Suite brand will live on for a few more months for Education and Non-profit customers before succumbing to the inevitable and the new, ever more indecipherable, iconography shows up.
While Google Workspace contains the tools from G Suite, Google is adding linked previews in Docs, Sheets and Slides, allowing a user to preview links without dropping out of the original document. It will also be possible to create a document (again, Docs, Sheets and Slides) within a room in Chat without having to jump elsewhere.
Meet picture-in-picture, which is already in Gmail and Chat, will be rolling out to Docs, Sheets and Slides in the coming months, affording users the opportunity to gurn at each other while massaging figures on that graph or doing group projects.
Google has tried to reassure those a little jumpy about security and privacy: Meet will receive audit logging and classification capabilities aimed at keeping previously ejected users out of future meetings. It will also spot users with those oh-so-witty "abusive display names" and disallow them.
In addition, Chat will receive audit logs, aimed at helping admins spot phishing, malicious behaviour or unwanted data seepage.
That seepage will be further staunched by a redesigned rules platform aimed at protecting data and preventing it from going places it shouldn't.
All are handy features, but it is worth noting that Microsoft has also been banging on about data loss prevention and its ilk and, for many, the warm embrace of Microsoft 365 is hard to avoid at an enterprise level.
That said, Google has scored some notable victories over its rival, including a switch by aviation giant Airbus to G Suite in 2018. Back then the move was attributed more to collaboration rather than cost, music to the ears of VP for Google Workspace (and former Microsoft exec), Javier Soltero.
Pricing is little changed, although both the names and what you actually get for your money have done. While a new "Business Standard" tier keeps the old "Business" tier price, users seeking features such as eDiscovery and advanced endpoint and vault management will need to opt for the new, and pricier, "Business Plus" tier.
"Business Standard" can be had for £8.28 (US $12) per user per month while the Plus version commands £13.80 (US $18). Access to more of Workspace's features requires the Enterprise tier, as do those companies with 300 or more users.
For now, things don't change for existing users of G Suite Basic and Business, although Google has warned customers to brace for an upcoming "transition" to one of the new editions. G Suite Enterprise subscribers will be "automatically migrated to Google Workspace Enterprise Plus" at $30 per user per month.
You'll be losing out on storage in some tiers, judging by the documentation. G Suite’s Business and Enterprise editions both gave unlimited storage to users (except on accounts with fewer than 5 users, which get 1TB a pop). Its replacement, Google Workspace Business Standard, loses the unlimited storage and replaces it with 2TB per user (or 1TB for 1 - 4 person orgs - see new pricing plan here).
Matthew Hodgson, CEO at group messenger app maker Element, claimed Google's "increased consolidation" is "incredibly anti-competitive, stifling innovation by making it harder for users to adopt alternatives."
"By tightly integrating together their existing offerings, Google is making it ever harder to use alternatives, and is effectively holding the users and their data hostage - at the users’ long term expense." ®