Google revamps Workspace to rival Microsoft, embrace remote work

Google revealed a raft of updates to its Workspace productivity suite, including new features for free users, a paid plan for entrepreneurs and fresh capabilities for its Meet videoconferencing system in an effort to better compete with Microsoft Corp’s products.

One of the moves, dubbed Workspace for Everyone, will extend the collaboration tools that corporate users receive to non-paying consumers, the Alphabet Inc. company said Monday in a series of blog posts.

Google will also offer a tier called Workspace Individual designed for entrepreneurs, which extends premium features of the software to small businesses, and it has upgraded Meet for a hybrid work future, in which some employees attend meetings in the office and others from home.

The effort helps “make the location of work less relevant, assists in the idea that people should be able to work and do what they need to do regardless of where they are and the device they’re using,” Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, said in an interview.

Workspace, which includes the popular email service Gmail, is now used by more than 3 billion users, Google said. Still, not all of its component applications are equally popular.

For more than a year, the internet giant has loaded Meet with more features to catch up to videoconferencing leader Zoom Video Communications Inc. Google also lags behind in workplace collaboration and chat tools, a space where Microsoft Teams and Slack Technologies Inc have excelled.

Google’s announcements demonstrate an ambition to be dominant in these markets among workers, students and consumers.

Google has long sought ways to diversify its revenue, 80% of which came from advertising in 2020. The lion’s share of sales are generated by its popular online services, including search, Maps and YouTube. The company is trying to translate its popularity among free Workspace users into more subscription revenue from small businesses and large enterprises.

Google will let everyone use Chat, its alternative to Teams and Slack, which had been available only for paying customers. While the app is currently subdivided into “Rooms” where individuals message one another, they will be replaced by “Spaces” this summer.

Spaces will become a communications hub, where groups of users can email, instant message, begin a Meet call and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets.

Workspace Individual is an attempt to further monetize the productivity suite that competes against Microsoft’s 365 software lineup. At a cost of $9.99 a month, users will receive personalized email marketing, smart booking services and other features previously available only to large companies.

Meet will offer a “Companion Mode” starting in September, which lets workers attending a meeting in an office log into the videoconference through a second device, so they can take part in polls, chats and question-and-answer sessions.

The idea is to create parity between those in the physical conference room and their colleagues who are logged in remotely.

In an effort to bolster digital security, Google will offer customers client-side encryption. They’ll be able to shield their data with encryption keys they possess, making the information indecipherable to Google and others.

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Google revamps Workspace to rival Microsoft, embrace remote work