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People

Workspace is Google’s all-in-one, do-everything productivity tool

Google's bringing messaging, work and more into a single place — and a single strategy.

Google Workspace apps

Google Workspace is a new name, a bunch of new logos, and a lot of apps in one place.

Image: Google

Google's work-software products always almost made sense. Docs, Slides, Sheets and Drive were integrated in smart but incomplete ways, Gmail and Hangouts and Duo and countless other messaging products never felt like they co-existed very well, and Calendar, Keep and Tasks seemed perpetually one big update from being great.

Now, Google is trying to turn its sprawling ecosystem into a coherent whole. It's called Google Workspace, and it turns many disparate apps into one Productivity Voltron. Javier Soltero, who ran G Suite and now runs Workspace, called it a "complete reimagining of the G Suite business and our vision for the future of communication and collaboration."

Workspace seems to have been the plan ever since Soltero joined Google after a stint leading Office and Outlook at Microsoft. "No part of this was a response to COVID," he said. He said in April that when he looked at the many facets of G Suite — the content creation, the messaging, the collaboration — that the question was, "How do you make it seamless? Nobody needs to experience the organizational chart of a company as they move from one product to another." Workspace's solution to that problem is to do more in every app and browser tab: Users can run a Meet call picture-in-picture on top of their presentation or document, or preview a Doc that's linked inside another Doc.

The underlying infrastructure is all about communication. Inside Workspace, it'll be easy to create a spreadsheet from within Google Chat, which will be automatically shared with everyone in a channel or group. Users will be able to work on documents and spreadsheets from within their Gmail inbox, too. For years, Google seemed satisfied by using links to make sharing and accessing things easy, but now it's pulling all the content into every place users are.

Soltero said that Google isn't just focused on helping companies talk amongst themselves, though. He said Workspace is also designed for frontline, retail and remote workers who are spread all over the place "and need to remain connected to their organizations, need to be able to have the right kind of solutions that fit their skill sets, their device profile, their situation." He also mentioned banks, customer-service centers and other customer interactions where people want to work with the products they already understand.

Workspace puts Google in direct competition with practically the entire universe of workplace productivity software. Microsoft Teams and Slack both beat Google to the realization that chat, not documents, is the center of the digital workspace, and those products have poured resources into integrating with as many work tools as possible. But Google has an advantage: Gmail is the world's dominant email provider, and Docs and Sheets and Slides are integral parts of most modern companies already. Google now has more than 2.6 billion users across these apps.

Meanwhile, Monday and Asana and so many others are competing to be the home for people's projects, documents and work. Now that can be Google, integrated seamlessly into users' inboxes. The only other company that could even attempt to combine both sides in such a way is Microsoft, and while that's clearly the plan for Microsoft 365, Google is well ahead.

Fundamentally, though, it boils down to simple math. Google wants to turn three bills — for G Suite, Slack and Zoom — into a single subscription to Workspace. That will put it squarely in Slack's crosshairs: It has accused Microsoft of growing Teams in a similar way, competing by bundling rather than actually building a better product. In one view, that's exactly what Google is doing now.

One other challenge for Google in pulling off Workspace will be one that Soltero is well aware of, because he saw it first hand at Microsoft. When you shove a lot of apps into a single place, things tend to get bloated, slow and crowded. (You could call this "Outlook Syndrome.") Sanaz Ahari, a product director on the Workspace team, said that Google's design principles centered on "simplicity, flexibility and helpfulness," but Google Calendar users spent the summer annoyed at the ever-increasing size of the Google Meet button in the app, telling them to make video calls when all they wanted to do was add an event. Then they got mad all over again in July, when Soltero announced that Chat and Rooms were coming to Gmail screens. (In fairness, it's not just Google: Yahoo recently added a tab for watching NFL games to its Mail app.) Google's tools became popular initially in part as a response to the heavy, overbearing state of Microsoft Office. Now it risks becoming the same.

Much of software development seems to exist in a perpetual cycle of bundling apps together into a more powerful whole, and then breaking them apart when all those features get too big to coexist. Work apps are deep in a bundling phase right now, and Google has more to bundle than most. That's a big opportunity, and a big challenge.

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

The current state-of-the-art quantum computers are a tangle of wires. And that can't be the case in the future.

Photo: IBM Research

The iconic image of quantum computing is the "Google chandelier," with its hundreds of intricately arranged copper wires descending like the tendrils of a metallic jellyfish. It's a grand and impressive device, but in that tangle of wires lurks a big problem.

"If you're thinking about the long-term prospects of quantum computing, that image should be just terrifying," Jim Clarke, the director of quantum hardware at Intel, told Protocol.

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Dan Garisto
Dan Garisto is a freelance science journalist who specializes in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on particle physics. He has an undergraduate degree in physics and is based in New York.
Election 2020

Google says it’s fighting election lies, but its ads fund them

A new report finds that more than 1,600 brands, from Disney to Procter & Gamble, have advertisements running on sites that push pro-Trump conspiracy theories. The majority of those ads are served by Google.

Google is the most dominant player in programmatic advertising, but it has a spotty record enforcing rules for publishers.

Photo: Alex Tai/Getty Images

Shortly after November's presidential election, a story appeared on the website of far-right personality Charlie Kirk, claiming that 10,000 dead people had returned mail-in ballots in Michigan. But after publishing, a correction appeared at the top of the story, completely debunking the misleading headline, which remains, months later, unchanged.

"We are not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual," the correction, which quoted Michigan election officials, read.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

Google’s productivity guru has some advice for you

Here's how Laura Mae Martin helps Google's top execs work smarter.

Laura Mae Martin, Google's executive productivity adviser, works one-on-one with the company's top brass.

Image: Google

If productivity were a product at Google, then Laura Mae Martin would be its product manager.

She's Google's executive productivity adviser, a job she created following a successful 20% project about managing inboxes that she debuted while working in keyword sales. As the company's top expert on productivity, her remit seems simple enough: Make Googlers more efficient in their day-to-day work lives. But in practice, that means working directly with the top executives of a trillion-dollar company to make some of tech's most sought-after talent better at what they do.

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Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.

People

Nine tricks from Google’s productivity guru

These productivity tips were voted as some of the best by Google employees. Now they're yours.

Google Workspace, G Suite's successor, has plenty of integrations to take advantage of.

Image: Google

Each Friday, Google's top productivity expert, Laura Mae Martin, sends a note to more than half the company globally describing ways that different departments are using their own tools to be more efficient. Here's a list of the favorites, as upvoted by Googlers themselves.

Read more about how Martin coaches Google's top execs to work smarter.

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Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.

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