Google begins merging Meet, Chat and Rooms into Gmail for its G Suite customers to face Microsoft Teams and Slack
Last month, Google announced amajor overhaul of Gmail that would see it merging with two of Google's new communications apps, Google Meet and Google Chat. Meet is the competitor of the Zoom video conferencing app while Google Chat is presented as the competitor of Slack. To explain the motivations behind this change, Javier Soltero, Vice President & GM, G Suite, indicated that:
“Remote work has dramatically increased the demands we receive in many directions, both in our professional and personal life. People tell us they feel overloaded with too much information and too many tasks on too many different tools. Instead of learning another tool, we need the tools we already use to be even more useful and to work together, in an integrated and intuitive way.“That's why today we are introducing a better home for work. G Suite now intelligently brings together the people, content, and tasks you need to make the most of your time. We integrate basic tools like video, chat, email, files and tasks, and improve them together, so you can more easily stay on top of things, wherever you are ”.
In a post, Google said that this new experience is now being rolled out to all G Suite customers: "We are currently rolling out this workspace to Gmail on the web and on Android."
Gmail will now have four separate components:
- Mail , which hasn't changed and is the same Gmail experience that users are experiencing.
- Chat , which allows users to send messages to individuals and small groups directly.
- Rooms , which are spaces that include shared discussion, files, and tasks to help groups work on projects more easily.
- Meet , which shows upcoming meetings that you can view and join.
On the desktop interface, the new version of Gmail keeps all Gmail controls and features where you expect them to be, it just adds many more controls to the sides and top of the email app. The sidebar now has sections for chatting with individuals or in meeting rooms from Google Chat, as well as meetings you have scheduled in Google Meet. Gmail's message area has a split-screen interface that can now do things like display a Google Chat chat room or even open a Google document directly in Gmail.
On mobile, the Gmail app gets a new tab bar on the bottom of the app, allowing you to switch between Mail, Chat, Rooms, and Meet.
Merging is completely optional and in G Suite the change will only appear for organizations that have the 'Preferred Chat' option enabled. Google's deployment strategy implies that a feature never reaches everyone at the same time also applies to GSuite, which also has two deployment options:
- Rapid Release: gradual deployment to users (up to 15 days for full functionality visibility) from August 12, 2020
- Scheduled Release: progressive deployment to users (up to 15 days to complete visibility functionality) from the 1 st September 2020
For now, the rollout is for the Gmail web app and the Android app. “With this launch, you'll also be able to open and co-edit a document with your team without leaving Gmail. This will make it easier for you to collaborate directly in the context of where you are doing your work at the time, ”says Google.
Plus, Google has introduced several new tools to help you prioritize and stay focused. You can now:
- Assign group tasks.
- Be notified of task updates in lounges.
- Pin important parts so that they are easier to find and easier to access.
- Set your availability to "Do not disturb".
- Make better use of your time with chat status notifications like "Out of office".
- View files shared in a lounge.
- View built-in search results and switch between email and web chat results.
- Start a new meeting or check your upcoming Meet meetings on the web.
For regular mainstream Google Accounts, they won't see the merge on desktop. Google said it is "actively considering how and when to deliver this experience to consumers who may want it."
On mobile, there is a bit of a merger for mainstream consumers since on Gmail they already have Google Meet since April ; before that date, Meet, its “premium” video conferencing tool, was reserved for companies. Google then gave advantages to the use of Meet on PC, iOS and Android in particular:
- the ability to broadcast live with up to 100,000 viewers for G Suite customers;
- a “mosaic” display that allows you to see 16 people at a time;
- the possibility of having up to 100 people per call (250 for companies);
- sessions of unlimited duration during this period (which will revert to their 60-minute limit after September 30);
- the ability to share your screen to make a presentation;
- real-time subtitles thanks to artificial intelligence;
- the ability to embed YouTube videos in the chat, so you can watch them all at the same time.
However, at the end of July, Google rolled out an update that reduced the tab bar to two buttons (it had four): Mail and Meet. Again, this display is optional, although it is enabled by default. You can turn it off by going to Settings-> [Your email address] and unchecking the Show Meet tab for video calls box . If you have multiple accounts in Gmail, you will need to do this for each account.
Bringing Meet and Chat into Gmail is basically reviving Google's old buzz strategy of “pushing our new product into Gmail”. At the time, Google's concern was on Facebook and Twitter instead of Zoom and Slack, but things have changed since. People spend a lot of time in Gmail, and Google is hoping that they'll want to do their jobs, chat instantaneously, and video conferencing in the same app. For GSuite users, the idea is that you pay for GSuite anyway, so you can stop paying for Slack and Zoom as well.