Going after Slack and MS Teams, but is it trying to do too much?
Yesterday, a redesigned Gmail for G Suite experience leaked courtesy of developer Tahin Rahman on Twitter, meant to be presented during Google's upcoming Cloud Next '20 event. Instead of ignoring the leak until the planned release date, the company has decided to go ahead and introduce the redesign officially. Going forward, Gmail for G Suite will become a hub encompassing all of Google's productivity platforms, giving you access to videoconferencing, chats, Docs, and more collaboration tools without having to open another website or app.
Let's get this out of the way first: The experience will only come to G Suite organizations. The newly integrated tools like Chat, Meet, and Rooms are meant to make it easier to collaborate within organizations, and it wouldn't make sense to bring these over to us regular Gmail users in the same form. With the Meet integration going live in the consumer version of Gmail, too, we might see some of these ideas making their way to us regular folks as well, though.
As we already saw in the leaks, the mobile Gmail app will see the addition of two more bottom tabs next to Mail and Meet: Chat and Rooms. Chat will allow you to communicate with colleagues in direct messages, and Rooms will behave like group chats or Slack channels. People from your organization will also have access to shared files and tasks there, which should make working on long-term projects easier.
Chat will nudge you to answer potentially forgotten requests.
On the Gmail website, these new sections will live in the left sidebar, where we've already seen the addition of Meet and Chat. Much like the Gmail app, you'll have access to Room-specific tasks and files, and you'll even be able to edit documents right there, with a chat room on the left and a videoconferencing window floating on top of everything. You'll also be able to access third-party apps through Gmail, like DocuSign, Salesforce, and Trello.
Other than that, G Suite users will get a "Do Not Disturb" status option to stop them from receiving notifications when they need to focus. They're accompanied by status notifications like "Out of office" or "In a meeting" to help others understand why they're not available.
While it makes sense to bring together all of these platforms, information overload seems almost inevitable when looking at these screenshots — there's a reason these tools had a life in their own tabs and windows before. Let's also hope Gmail won't become much more resource-intense, as that would end up slowing you down more than anything. My Gmail tab is already routinely the one that chomps through a big chunk of my RAM, and I need to keep the website open all day.
If you want to try the new G Suite, you can sign up to become part of a limited test run on the Google Cloud website. The Gmail revamp will then roll out to more people "over the following weeks, and you'll be notified when it's ready for you to try."