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Google re-positions Gmail as collaboration hub for video, chat and doc access

Google has unveiled a revamped Gmail that will serve as a hub for collaboration with access to video, chat and shared files available directly from the email client. It’s a move designed to bring Google into closer competition with Microsoft Teams, according to one analyst, as well boosting its position against newcomers.

Google has moved in recent months to integrate its various G Suite apps with Gmail, with its Meet video and Chat team messaging applications gradually being melded with the email client. Indeed, despite expectations in some quarters that team chat will kill email, Google has long seen Gmail as the natural home for collaboration in its portfolio.

A new Gmail app unveiled at the company’s Cloud Next event on Wednesday underscored Google’s intention to connect its various tools even more tightly.

Part of the changes to Gmail include an updated mobile app with quick access to Mail, Chat, Rooms and Meet functionality via four buttons on the bottom menu bar. Rooms, similar to a Slack channel, will allow users to jump straight into a group chat, for example.

Google Rooms Google

The Rooms feature will allow users to jump straight into a group chat.

Google also wants to make it easier to switch between apps in the browser-based version of Gmail, with the ability to jump from a text chat to a video call, for instance, or shift a conversation from email to a chat room. The aim is to reduce distractions, allowing conversations to take place in the most appropriate channel, whether it be chat for real-time conversations, face-to-face video, or email for asynchronous messaging. 

The company has also focused on productivity, with the introduction of “side-by-side” document editing that lets team members work together on a document within Gmail. Access to Google Docs and Sheets from within a single app echoes Microsoft’s focus with Teams, which acts as a portal to its Office apps. It’s also possible to schedule tasks that can be assigned to teammates.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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