Google Cloud has rebranded G Suite as Google Workspace and added more features to give enterprise customers everything they need to “get work done in one place” in addition to new ways to buy its productivity and collaboration tools.
The changes reflect the “end of the ‘office’ as we know it,” according to Javier Soltero, Google Cloud’s vice president and general manager of Google Workspace. They also set up Google Cloud to better compete for enterprise customers against Cisco’s Webex solution, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
“They‘re playing to win in the enterprise,” said Tom Galizia, lead commercial partner for Deloitte Consulting’s Alphabet/Google alliance. “And this is a shot across the bow to say, ‘We are here, we’re here to play to win, and this is one of many things that we will do to bring an enterprise value that is unparalleled.’”
Google Cloud’s “refreshed” offering includes a new user experience that combines tools including chat, email, voice and video calling, and content management into a unified offering, according to the cloud provider, which said its Workspace apps now are used by more than 2.6 billion active monthly consumer, enterprise and education users – up from 2 million-plus announced in March. That includes more than 6 million paying companies, a figure also announced in March.
The new Google Workspace features include linked previews in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides that allow users to preview the content of a link without leaving the original document, so they don’t spend time switching between apps and tabs.
Google will begin the rollout today of new “smart chips” in Docs, Sheets and Slides, so that when a user mentions someone in a document, a popup display will show details providing context and suggested actions such as sharing the document.
Google Workspace in the coming weeks also will allow users to create and collaborate on Google Docs, Sheets and Slides within a room in Google Chat, again without switching tabs or tools. The feature is aimed at reducing complexity and helping ensure all team members have visibility into relevant project work.
Google Cloud, which this summer said it would introduce Meet picture-in-picture to Gmail and Chat to allow people to see and hear who they’re working with, will now bring that capability to Docs, Sheets and Slides in the coming months.
“Next time that you‘re editing a document and you want to collaborate with your colleagues, you can have a Meet picture-in-picture, and you can pick up on those visual cues that are so subtle and so important in helping us all collaborate together, especially right now when we can’t be in the same physical space,” said Sanaz Ahari, senior director of product management for Google Workspace.
Google Cloud announced the general availability – for business customers – of the new integrated workspace experience, announced in preview in July, that brings together Chat, Meet and Rooms with Gmail on desktop and mobile. It plans to roll out the capability to consumer accounts in the coming months.
“We‘re starting with our customers and our business users particularly because we want to make sure we validate and continue to understand the usage patterns and refine the experience,” Soltero said.
In the coming weeks, Google Cloud also will roll out new four-color icons for Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Meet and its content creation tools including Docs, Sheets, Slides.
It will roll out Google Workspace in the coming months for its education and nonprofit customers, who’ll continue to use G Suite for Education and G Suite for Nonprofits until then.
The G Suite rebranding is timely given the demands of a virtual, global workforce, said Trevor Wilson, managing director of enterprise collaboration for Chicago’s Maven Wave, an Atos company and Google Cloud Premier Partner.
“With Google Workspace, Google is acknowledging how today’s world collaborates while putting a spotlight on enterprise needs,” he said. “Rather than a suite of independent tools, this is really a workspace full of interconnected applications and tools focused on collaboration and productivity.”
The changes will help customers better associate the offering’s value proposition, said Elias Ruvalcaba, Maven Wave’s head of G Suite and collaboration sales.
“There will certainly be a buzz about the announcement that will spike demand, but what we’re most excited about is how we can better-position Workspace versus the competition,” Ruvalcaba said. “Not just the enhanced features and capabilities, but with how we can approach the financials of the partnership both creatively and aggressively.”
What’s behind the changes
In renaming G Suite, Google Cloud wanted a brand that gave it the flexibility to “break free” from the boxes that have been defined for productivity and collaboration in the past, according to Soltero.
“By looking at this as a workspace, we have more flexibility to blend experiences, whether they‘re creation tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides or communication tools like Chat and create something that’s net-new,” he said. “The Gmail, Docs, Drive -- all the individual components or ingredients of the Google Workspace story --continue to exist. And they’re important because they are usually the entry point…that leads into the Workspace experience for users.”
No part of the changes, however, were in response to the global coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in companies relying on remote workforces and educational institutions to move to distance learning, according to Soltero. The work to deliver the integrated experience began in the early part of 2019, he said.
“It was…probably the largest engineering endeavor this team has had as a single unit in recent memory,” he said. “And the decision to rebrand and to introduce these new ways to buy were things that we already knew we wanted to deliver on at the beginning of the year as part of the evolution of our business and what we were hearing from customers.”
The pandemic provided a prism or very focused lens through which Google Cloud could assess its efforts that already were in motion and their urgency and importance, Soltero said.
“Google has made a hard pivot to be a serious force of nature in the enterprise market, and I know this move was thoughtful and appropriate to signal that enterprise is a critical and important market for Google,” Deloitte Consulting’s Galizia said. “They’ve listened to enterprise customers, and they have and will continue to deliver on current and unmet needs of this key market segment.”
Galizia believes the rebranding will better help Google Cloud partners such as Deloitte – a Google Cloud Premier Partner -- better-sell Workspace.
“I fully believe that enterprise clients will appreciate Google’s signaling that they are paramount to Google’s focus and attention,” he said. “Alphabet Google is laser-focused on enterprise, and what they’ve made second nature to…consumers, they are bringing to the workforces of enterprises and public sector/government clients. That is a step function advancement in what we experience today. I know this offering will be well-received, especially as they are focused on how to deliver interoperability to other technologies that customers may have already deployed.”
In developing the new user experience, Google Cloud focused on flexible solutions to help people work from anywhere, artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help users maximize their time, and easy-to-use solutions help users stay connected and collaborate and communicate effectively, according to Ahari.
“You‘re able to see your calendar right from the center hub of your work within Gmail and jump into your next meeting,” she said. “Or you can use our powerful search tools to find any file that you’re looking for. You’re able to create a document and share it with your team members that you have already created a room for, really making it easy such that we’re bringing the tools and the products to you where you are already getting your work done, instead of opening a new tab for every new task.”
Interestingly, the Google Workspace team includes three new employees that joined during the pandemic -- the heads of product management, marketing and design -- and haven’t set foot on a Google Cloud campus, according to Soltero.
“Further, the leadership team that put together this program…which is a very ambitious and all-encompassing effort, has never physically sat in the same place together,” he said. “I haven‘t even met two of the people in person -- I just know them via video. So we have sort of a first-hand view on exactly how important it is to have tools that help transcend the workplace boundaries, help people manage their time and attention and, ultimately, build stronger connections with the people they work with and their end customers to be able to be more successful.”
Soltero outlined three scenarios of collaboration for which Google believes it can serve customers through Google Workspace: the need for internal teams to power remote collaboration; front-line workforces, whether it’s in retail or healthcare, that rely on mobile; and end-user customer experiences that need to be digitally reimagined.
“Whether it‘s a customer service scenario, or again, even a patient situation where you have a health care organization delivering health care to patients -- those patients don’t want to have to download additional workplace tools, things they don’t normally use,” Soltero said. “They want to use what’s already on their phone. They want to use tools that are familiar.”
In all three cases, there’s an ability to build human connection to help people manage their time more effectively and work anywhere “all through these very modern products that Google has pioneered and continued to develop,” Soltero said.
New ways to buy
Along with the rebranding and additional features, Google Cloud said it’s offering more Workspace editions with different product features, storage capacity and administrative and security controls.
“We wanted to introduce the next step in the evolution of our business model, which is to create a better separation between products to make it easy for companies to buy the right product that is suitable for their requirements,” Soltero said. “We tailor our offerings for small and medium-sized businesses for the requirements they have, the features they need, in the way they like to purchase. And we‘re able to create the same exact experience for our enterprise customers who have longer buying cycles, different migration requirements and a set of requirements around security and management that are fairly unique.”
Smaller businesses with 300 or fewer seats have three new offerings to choose from: Business Starter at US$6 per user for small businesses that need custom email for their domains; Business Standard at US$12 per user for companies requiring more advanced productivity features such as larger meetings and more storage; and
Business Plus at US$18 per user for organizations that need additional security and compliance capabilities such as Vault and advanced mobile device management. The Business Starter and Standard levels are the same prices from G Suite’s previous Basic and Business offerings, but the Business Plus edition has a new price to “provide more advanced capabilities to SMBs who do not need the entire enterprise-level offerings,” Google Cloud said.
Google Cloud is introducing new offerings for larger businesses that include more productivity features, enterprise-grade administrative controls and its most advanced security and compliance capabilities.
“Enterprise editions are available for purchase from our sales team and our extensive partner network, with a variety of subscriptions and price points based on an organization’s needs,” Google Cloud said.
Teams and departments looking to use Google Workspace can take advantage of its Essentials offering that, an US$8 per active user, allows them to use its video conferencing and collaboration tools without replacing their current email or calendar systems.
“These changes will not impact current contracts -- existing G Suite licenses and related services will continue to function as they do today, until a customer transitions,” Google Cloud said. “If a customer is not ready to transition now, we will be sharing additional information over the coming months to identify a transition path that best suits their needs.”