07/18 Update below. This post was originally published on July 16
Gmail users have every right to feel frustrated right now. In recent weeks, Gmail has had problems with Windows and suffered a serious spam filter flaw which sent potentially malicious emails straight to users’ inboxes. But now Google has announced a massive overhaul of the service which should convince potential deserters to stay.
In an official blog post, Google has announced the most radical redesign of Gmail in its 16 year history. In a transformative move, Google has integrated messaging, video chat, shared file access, virtual meeting rooms, real-time collaboration and more directly into Gmail, turning it into an all-in-one productivity suite. Gmail now stands apart from any rival email service.
07/18 Update: I have been tipped off that the delay for everyday Gmail users to receive all these new features is likely to be longer than expected. While the new service is rolling out for G Suite subscribers, I understand that while Google may drip feed aspects of this overhaul to regular consumers, they are unlikely to see a full redesign before 2021 at the earliest. Google is prioritizing businesses with these upgrades, which is understandable. That said, the global Coronavirus pandemic has forced an unprecedented amount of home working for businesses big and small, as well as the self employed who may not be G Suite users, so hopes were high that the changes would be reflected for all Gmail users sooner rather than later. Needless to say, road maps can change but this looks set to be a long wait.
“One thing we’ve heard again and again from our users is how switching between apps interrupts their flow—and their focus,” said Google vice president Javier Soltero. “That’s why in this new integrated experience, we’ve been thoughtful about how to help you work more fluidly.”
In practice, what this means is Gmail will now integrate Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs/Sheets/Slides, and Tasks as well as Rooms, which become a full-on Slack/Teams competitor. Users will be able to share and collaborate on documents in-real time while having a live video chat all without leaving their email. It’s potentially revolutionary and should aid everyone from big business to amateur football teams.
Google also confirmed these changes will roll out to Android and iOS apps soon, but there’s one big caveat. Out the gate this massive redesign will only be available for G Suite users (sign up for access here). That said, in this era of home working, I’d be amazed if it does not become available to all before long.
Following these changes, Google now describes Gmail as an “integrated workspace”. It’s a fundamental change to the world’s most used email service and anyone thinking of jumping ship, might now want to stick around.
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