Google’s Workspace Chat Rooms to become collaborative ‘Spaces’

The company will now offer its collaboration suite to consumers for free as it rolls out a variety of enhancements to better connect its productivity apps.

Google Workspace
Google

Since the rebranding of G Suite to Workspace last year, Google has targeted a more streamlined and interconnected experience across its collaboration and productivity apps to compete with the likes of Slack and Microsoft. On Monday, Google announced a host of updates aimed at that goal, including enhancements to its Chat and Meet apps, security features, and the introduction of "Spaces."

The latter — Spaces — replaces Chat Rooms, an area in Workspace Chat “for people, projects and topics to come together, with a real-time collaboration canvas,” Sanaz Ahari, senior director of product management for Google Workspace, said in a briefing last week.  

The core functionality will be the same as Rooms: groups of workers can access and co-edit documents while simultaneously discussing changes in Chat, as well as share files, assign tasks, and organize work projects. However, Spaces will also include new features such as the ability to pin an important message within a workspace, search content, set custom statuses and presence indicators, and use in-line conversation threading.

Spaces will also be more prominently shown in the left-hand navigation bar in Workspace, where it will sit alongside Mail, Chat, and Meet shortcut icons. 

“For current Workspace customers, I believe Spaces will improve and enhance the way employees get work done as you can chat in apps and add chat to apps,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “Spaces appears easier to use than both Slack and Teams, which is what you would expect from Google, which leads in consumer.”  

Spaces will be introduced over the summer, Google said, with some features made available to enterprise customers first.

The company's Meet video app is also getting updates. This includes Companion Mode, which provides meeting participants with access to interactive features such as polls and hand-raising; Calendar RSVPs, with options for participants to add information such as their join location and whether they are working remotely or in a meeting room; and additional moderation capabilities for meeting hosts, such as the ability to switch off in-meeting chat.

There were also several privacy and security updates, including client-side encryption, phishing protection, new ways to classify Drive files based on sensitivity levels, and the ability to set trust “rules” for how files can be shared outside an organization.

And Google announced it will offer Workspace to consumers for free, providing tighter integration between various apps, as well as additional features like the smart canvas capabilities. Certain advanced features, such as admin capabilities, will still be restricted for paid tiers.

"This … represents the next important step in getting all users in all walks of life using the same set of products and benefiting from the same degree of integration that we've been very focused on,” said Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace.

A new Workspace subscription tier, Workspace Individual, has been introduced. Aimed at freelancers and sole traders, this will include features such as company email address, email marketing tools, and “smart booking services.” Workspace Individual will soon be available in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and Japan. Google Workspace Individual is priced at $9.99/month, with an introductory price of $7.99/month.

The introduction of the new Workspace SKU follows the introduction earlier this year of the Workspace Frontline edition, a custom “solution” aimed at workers in non-office roles such as construction workers and retail staff, with features including advanced endpoint management.

The updates to Workspace follow the introduction of Google’s “smart canvas” concept at its I/O conference last month, part of the vendor’s plans to better integrate the various tools within the app suite.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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