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How Google is trying to make Gmail the go-to place for work communication

The new changes to Gmail’s user interface mean that the email app can be used to make calls too.

Google on September 8 announced a series of updates to its Google Workspace offering among which is the redesign of Gmail user interface. The new interface, shown below, makes clear one thing: Google is trying to make Gmail the go-to place for all its users’ communication needs.

Email is just one part of Gmail now

With the redesign, Google’s core communication apps: Gmail, Chat, Spaces, and Meet, all get their own prominent spot in the left sidebar of the Gmail web interface and in the tabs of the Gmail app. Email is now just one of the four main parts of Gmail.

Google has been adding these new apps and features to Gmail since the beginning of the pandemic to make work from home easier and to take on work-focused products from other companies like Microsoft Outlook.

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Spaces: While Chat is for one-on-one messaging, Spaces is a rebranding of Rooms, which is meant for group chats, tasks, projects and collaborations. It is a Slack-like product built into Gmail.

Screenshot of Spaces tab in Gmail. Source: Google

Google Meet Calling: Meet is Google’s video conferencing product, but Google has now added one-on-one calling feature to Meet in the Gmail app. “Soon I’ll be able to call members of my team directly from a one-to-one chat. This will ring their device running the Gmail mobile app and send a call chip to our chat on their laptop, so they can easily answer from any device,” the company said. Strangely, the Meet standalone app will only get this at some point in the future.

The reason for adding this feature: “Remember when you’d casually bump into a colleague in the office hallway or a break room and start a conversation that sparked new ideas? To help enable these spontaneous connections when teammates aren’t in the office together, we’re bringing Google Meet calling to Workspace,” the company said.

“That Gmail was the first place Google thought to put its calling feature reveals how important Gmail has become to the larger changes happening within Google Workspace. Google has not been shy about leveraging Gmail’s popularity to drive adoption of its other services.” – Dieter Bohn, The Verge

All these changes will come to Enterprise users in the coming weeks and then to regular users. In addition to software changes, Google has also announced new products coming to its Series One line-up of Google Meet-compatible workspace products.

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