Google integrates its collaboration tools within G Suite to boost productivity
Looking to capitalize on the pandemic-driven hunger for easier online collaboration, Google LLC said today it’s updating its popular Gmail app for business users with some new integrations that effectively make it more of a communications tool.
The Alphabet Inc. company said it’s incorporating some of its popular collaboration tools within the business version of Gmail, so users won’t have to switch among other applications or browser tabs in order to collaborate. The changes could help Google keep more people within its own ecosystem, instead of using alternative tools such as Slack or Zoom.
Effectively Gmail has become a unified app for all of Google’s communication platforms, including Chat, Rooms and Meet. Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of G Suite, said the updates create an “integrated workspace” that will make it easier for workers to switch among the different communication platforms without getting lost.
As a result, those tools can now be accessed from the same Gmail app on smartphones, or the same window on a desktop browser. For example, desktop users can now view their chats in one column and a Google Doc in another, with a Google Meet video chat hovering over them.
Meanwhile, Google Rooms, which is a shared space for workers to collaborate on different projects, now enables users to share files and tasks directly within each space. In addition, users can now create rooms that include people outside of their company, for example consultants or contractors. It’s also possible to open and edit documents in rooms, without leaving the Gmail app.
Other new capabilities designed to reduce switching between different tools include the ability to join a video call from a chat and to create tasks from a chat message. Meanwhile, Gmail’s search function will now include results from Chat, too.
Google will also launch some new security features for Chat and Meet in the coming weeks, beginning with the consumer and G Suite for Education versions of the platform. They include a new safety lock feature that will let hosts select which attendees in a meeting can actually participate. Google will also add some “knocking” controls, which can keep people from attempting to rejoin a meeting they’ve been kicked out of by knocking.
Google said other new integrated workspace features will be rolled out in future too, including picture-in-picture video calls within Gmail and the ability to integrate Google Meet with tools such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
“It is good to see Google finally ending its confusing state of collaboration by its tools more easily available to users in their workflow,” said Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller. Focusing on GMail as the launch point is the right strategy, as you want to launch collaboration options from the most popular platform available. Streamlining products and focusing on productivity is a good true north for vendors, so we expect these moves to pay off for Google.”
The new features are being made available to G Suite users as an early access preview this week, ahead of a wider rollout later in the year.
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