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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.

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

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Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

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J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. 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.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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