Mar
01
2021
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Google updates Workspace

Google Workspace, the company’s productivity platform you’ll forever refer to as G Suite (or even “Google Docs”), is launching a large update today that touches everything from your calendar to Google Meet and how you can use Workspace with Google Assistant.

Image Credits: Google

Indeed, the highlight here is probably that you can now use Assistant in combination with Google Workspace, allowing you to check your work calendar or send a message to your colleagues. Until now, this feature was available in beta and even after it goes live, your company’s admins will have to turn on the “Search and Assistant” service. And this is a bit of a slow rollout, too, with this capability now being generally available on mobile but still in beta for smart speakers and displays like Google’s own Nest Hub. Still, it’s been a long time coming, given that Google promised these features a very long time ago now.

The other new feature that will directly influence your day-to-day work is support for recurring out-of-office entries and segmentable working hours, as well as a new event type, Focus Time, to help you minimize distractions. Focus Time is a bit cleverer than the three-hour blocks of time you may block off on your calendar anyway in that it limits notifications during those event windows. Google is also launching a new analytics feature that tells you how much time you spend (waste) in meetings. This isn’t quite as fully featured (and potentially creepy) as Microsoft’s Productivity Score, since it only displays how much time you spend in meetings, but it’s a nice overview of how you spend your days (though you know that already). None of this data is shared with your managers.

For when you go back to an office, Google is also adding location indicators to Workspace so you can share when you will be working from there and when you’ll be working from home.

And talking about meetings, since most of these remain online for the time being, Google is adding a few new features that now allow those of you who use their Google Nest Hub Max to host meetings at home and to set up a laptop as their own second-screen experience. What’s far more important, though, is that when you join a meeting on mobile, Google will now implement a picture-in-picture mode so you can be in that Meet meeting on your phone and still browse the web, Gmail and get important work done during that brainstorming session.

Mobile support for background replace is also coming, as well as the addition of Q&As and polls on mobile. Currently, you can only blur your background on mobile.

Image Credits: Google

For frontline workers, Google is adding something it calls Google Workspace Frontline, with new features for this group of users, and it is also making it easier for users to build custom AppSheet apps from Google Sheets and Drive, “so that frontline workers can digitize and streamline their work, whether it’s collecting data in the field, reporting safety risks, or managing customer requests.”

Apr
29
2020
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Google is making Meet free for everyone

Google today announced that it is making Meet, its video meeting tool for businesses that directly competes with the likes of Zoom, available for free to everyone. Until now, you could participate in a Meet call without being a paying user, but you needed a paid G Suite account to start calls.

You won’t be able to schedule free Meet calls right away, though. Google is opening up access to Meet to free users gradually, starting next week. It may take a few weeks before everybody has access to it.

After September, free accounts will be limited to meetings that don’t run longer than 60 minutes, but until then, you can chat for as long as you want. The only other real limit is that meetings can’t have more than 100 participants. You still get screen sharing, real-time captions and the new tiled layout the company introduced only a few days ago.

Users will need a Google account to participate in meetings, though, which isn’t likely to be a major barrier for most people, but it does add more friction than simply clicking on a Zoom link.

Google argues that in return, you get a safer platform, not just because it’s hard to guess meeting codes for Meet (which makes “Meet-bombing” a non-starter), but also because Meet runs in the browser and is hence less vulnerable to security threats.

“With COVID, video conferencing is really becoming an essential service and we have seen video conferencing usage really go up,” Smita Hashim, the Director of Product Management at Google Cloud, told me. Because the need for these tools continues to increase, Google decided to bring Meet to individual users now, though Hashim noted that some of this had been on the company’s roadmap before.

“We are accelerating what we are doing, given the crisis and given the need for video conferencing at this point,” she said. “We still have the Google Hangouts product but Google Meet availability we are accelerating. This is a newer product designed to scale to many more participants and that has features like closed captioning and those kinds of things.”

So for the time being, Hangouts for consumers and also Google Duo aren’t going away. But at least for consumer Hangouts, which has been on life support for a long time, this move may accelerate its deprecation.

Clearly, Google saw that Zoom caught on among consumers and that Microsoft announced plans for a consumer edition of Teams. Without a free and easily accessible version of Meet, Google wasn’t able to fully capitalize on what has become a breakout time for video conferencing tools, so it makes sense for the company to make a push to get this new edition out of the door as fast as possible.

“From a leadership perspective, the message was really: how can Google be more and more helpful,” Hashim said when I asked her what the discussion about this move was like inside the company. “That was the direction we got. So from our side, video conferencing is the product which is really hugely accelerated usage and Google Meet in particular. So that’s why we first launched the advanced features, then we did the safety controls and then we said, ‘okay, let’s accelerate some of these other features,’ but we kept seeing that need, so it felt like a very natural next step for us to take and make it available to all our users.”

In addition to free access to Google Meet for everyone, Google is also launching a new edition of G Suite, dubbed G Suite Essentials. This new edition, which is meant for small teams and includes access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheet, Slides and, of course, Meet, will be available for free until September 30. After that, Google will start charging, but as Hashim told me, the company hasn’t decided on pricing yet.

For enterprise users, Google is also adding a few perks through September 30. These include free access to advanced Meet features for all G Suite customers, including the ability to live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within their domains, as well as free additional Meet licenses without the need for an amended contract, and free G Suite Essentials for enterprise customers.

Google also used today’s announcement to share a few new stats around Meet. As of last week, Meet’s daily meeting participants surpassed 100 million, for example, and with that, Meet now plays host to 3 billion minutes of video meetings. Daily peak usage is up 30x since January. That’s a lot of time spent in meetings.

Jul
25
2018
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Google launches a standalone version of Drive for businesses that don’t want the full G Suite

If you are a business and want to use Google Drive, then your only option until now was to buy a full G Suite subscription, even if you don’t want or need access to the rest of the company’s productivity tools. Starting today, though, these businesses will be able to buy a subscription to a standalone version of Google Drive, too.

Google says that a standalone version of Drive has been at the top of the list of requests from prospective customers, so it’s now giving this option to them in the form of this new service (though to be honest, I’m not sure how much demand there really is for this product). Standalone Google Drive will come with all the usual online storage and sharing features as the G Suite version.

Pricing will be based on usage. Google will charge $8 per month per active user and $0.04 per GB stored in a company’s Drive.

Google’s idea here is surely to convert those standalone Drive users to full G Suite users over time, but it’s also an acknowledgement on Google’s part that not every business is ready to move away from legacy email tools and desktop-based productivity applications like Word and Excel just yet (and that its online productivity suite may not be right for all of those businesses, too).

Drive, by the way, is going to hit a billion users this week, Google keeps saying. I guess I appreciate that they don’t want to jump the gun and are actually waiting for that to happen instead of just announcing it now when it’s convenient. Once it does, though, it’ll become the company’s eighth product with more than a billion users.

Feb
07
2018
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Google Drive now lets you easily comment on Microsoft Office files, PDFs and images

 Google is launching an update to Google Drive today that will make it easier for teams and agencies to use a mix of G Suite and Microsoft Office while working with their colleagues and customers.
With this update, Google Drive users can now easily comment on Office files, PDFs and images in the Drive preview pane without having to use (and potentially pay for) tools like Microsoft Office or… Read More

Sep
07
2017
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Google launches Drive File Stream to replace the Google Drive desktop app for G Suite users

 Google today announced the launch of new desktop application for Google Drive users, called Drive File Stream, which is now available to G Suite customers. The app will serve as a replacement for the Google Drive desktop app that will be shut down for good next year – a far enough date to give enterprise customers plenty of time to make the switch. The company had earlier detailed its… Read More

Mar
09
2017
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Google updates Drive with a focus on its business users

 Google today announced a number of major updates to Drive, its online file storage service, which all aim to make it more useful for the company’s business and enterprise users. In addition, the company announced that Drive now has 800 million daily active users, which probably makes it the largest online file storage service in the market today. Read More

Feb
07
2017
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Google debuts Cloud Search, a smart search engine for G Suite customers

prepare_your_next_meeting_v3 Google today launched for its business customers a new tool called Google Cloud Search, which will allow users to search across G Suite products, including Drive, Gmail, Sites, Calendar, Docs, Contacts and more. The service was previously available in a limited preview, where it was known as Springboard, and described as something like a Google Now for enterprise workers. Springboard, now… Read More

Dec
07
2016
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Slack and Google announce partnership focused on better integrating their services

slack-large Slack announced a strategic partnership with Google Cloud this morning, which will bring a number of new features, including deeper integrations with Google services, to its collaboration platform for teams. Among the additions are new bots for notifications, as well as support for Google’s recently launched Team Drives, document previews, permissioning and more. The move comes at a… Read More

May
06
2016
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Google connects BigQuery to Google Drive and Sheets

google data center Google today announced that it is bringing some of its Google Cloud Platform and Google Apps tools a little bit closer together. BigQuery, Google’s serverless analytics data warehousing service, will now be able to read files from Google Drive and access spreadsheets from Google Sheets. There has long been something of a firewall between Google’s cloud computing services and its… Read More

Sep
02
2015
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Google Docs Gets Voice Typing, Templates, Smart Sheets And More

IMG_5218 “Get ’em while they’re young” is a battle cry for every company. The younger your users are, the more you can evolve with them over time and keep them locked in to using your products. When I was in school (old person voice), Apple had a huge presence by doing educational partnerships which was ridiculously smart for branding. The hope was that kids would go home and… Read More

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