Google Meet now shares detailed bandwidth information with your employer

Google Meet pinpoints the exact moment someone started sounding like a robot.

Enlarge / Google Meet pinpoints the exact moment someone started sounding like a robot. (credit: Google)

The latest update for Google Meet is a new feature that lets Google Workspace administrators see employee bandwidth during a call.

The revamped “Meet Quality Tool” will show inbound and outbound bandwidth information, pitting a user’s “estimated available bandwidth” against how much bandwidth Google Meet needed for each moment of the call. Google Meet used to log average numbers for each person over the length of the call, but the new tool now shows each person’s bandwidth in a second-by-second line graph. Google says that “We hope by surfacing this detailed information, Admins can easily troubleshoot or improve call quality for their users.”

The full list of everything Google Meet logs and shares with your employer or school is lengthy. It includes network statistics like jitter, packet loss, congestion, and ping times as well as whether you were on a wired, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection, microphone and speaker levels, CPU usage and FPS, and any moderation actions. There’s also the Google Meet Audit log, which gives Workspace administrators access to a log of every meeting, including the names and descriptions of each meeting and all the participants.

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#google-workspace, #tech

Google Workspace opens up spaces for all users

Employee location has become a bit more complicated as some return to the office, while others work remotely. To embrace those hybrid working conditions, Google is making more changes to its Google Workspace offering by going live with spaces — its tool for small group sharing — in Google Chat for all users.

Spaces integrates with Workspace tools, like the calendar, Drive and documents, to provide a more hybrid work experience where users can see the full history, content and context of conversations regardless of their location.

Google’s senior director of product management Sanaz Ahari wrote in a blog post that customers wanted spaces to be more like a “central hub for collaboration, both in real time and asynchronously. Instead of starting an email chain or scheduling a video meeting, teams can come together directly in a space to move projects and topics along.”

Here are some new features users can see in spaces:

  • One interface for everything — inbox, chats, spaces and meetings.
  • Spaces, and content therein, can be made discoverable for people to find and join in the conversation.
  • Better search ability within a team’s knowledge base.
  • Ability to reply to any message within a space.
  • Enhanced security and admin tools to monitor communication.

Employees can now indicate if they will be virtual or in-person on certain days in Calendar for collaboration expectations. As a complement, users can call colleagues on both mobile and desktop devices in Google Meet.

Calendar work location

In November, all customers will be able to use Google Meet’s Companion Mode to join a meeting from a personal device while tapping into in-room audio and video. Also later this year, live-translated captions will be available in English to French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, with more languages being added in the future.

In addition, Google is also expanding its Google Meet hardware portfolio to include two new all-in-one video conferencing devices, third-party devices — Logitech’s video bar and Appcessori’s mobile device speaker dock — and interoperability with Webex by Cisco.

Google is tying everything together with a handbook for navigating hybrid work, which includes best practice blueprints for five common hybrid meetings.

 

#apps, #cloud, #computing, #enterprise, #google, #google-meet, #google-workspace, #groupware, #mobile-device, #mobile-software, #tc, #technology, #telecommunications, #video-conferencing, #web-conferencing, #webex

Javier Soltero, Google’s head of Workspace, will join us at TC Sessions: SaaS

When it comes to big SaaS products, few are bigger than Google Workspace (formerly known as GSuite). So it’s maybe no surprise that one of the first people we contacted to speak at our SaaS conference on October 27 was Google’s Javier Soltero.

Today, Puerto Rico-born Soltero is Google’s VP and GM in charge of Workspace, which has well over 2 billion users. Today, it consists of products like Gmail and Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slide Meet, Chat and Drive. Currently, Workspace is going through what may be one of its most important periods of change, too, with extensive new collaboration features and, for the first time, a paid individual plan. All of this, of course, is happening against the backdrop of the pandemic, which made remote collaboration tools and video chat services like Meet more important than ever.

All of that would be enough to make Soltera a good conversation partner for a SaaS event, but his background goes much further than that. He actually started his career as a software engineer at Netscape in the late 90s and after a few other engineering positions, co-founded launched his first startup, the monitoring service Hyperic, in 2004. Hyperic then merged with SpringSource, which was acquired by VMware, landing Soletro in the position as VMware’s CTO for its SaaS and Application Services.

It’s likely his next startup, the mobile-centric email startup Acompli, though, that you remember. Founded in mid-2013, Microsoft quickly acquired Acompli in late 2014 and then essentially turned into Outlook Mobile. At Microsoft, Soltero rose through the ranks to become a corporate VP for its Office group and Cortana, before decamping to Google in 2019. Since then, he’s become the public face of GSuite/Workspace and we’ll use our time with him to talk about the joys and challenges of managing a massive SaaS product, but also about what he learned from building products from the ground up.

Register today with a $75 early bird ticket and save $100 before tickets go up. TC Sessions: SaaS takes place on October 27 and will feature the chats with the leading minds in SaaS, networking, and startup demos.

 

#companies, #computing, #gmail, #google, #google-for-education, #google-workspace, #google-calendar, #javier-soltero, #mobile-software, #puerto-rico, #tc, #technology, #vp, #webmail

Google’s new Drive app replaces Backup and Sync with Drive File Stream

Google has released a new Google Drive desktop app that replaces old versions for both home and business. The new Drive app builds in features from Google Photos, Backup and Sync (the old, primarily consumer app), and Drive File Stream (the old, business-targeted version).

Features

Frankly, there doesn’t appear to be much new in the upgraded app—the update looks like more of a clean-up and unification effort than anything else. Major features include:

  • Uploading and syncing photos to Google cloud storage—including automatic compression and resizing, for those choosing “Storage saver” rather than original image quality
  • Syncing external storage devices (thumb drives, USB hard drives, and SSDs) to Google Drive
  • (Optional) two-way file and folder synchronization—automatically download files to local folders and vice versa
  • Locally mounted Drive folders in either Stream or Mirror mode—automatically downloading files on-demand or automatically prefetching all files from the cloud
  • In-app support for shared Google drives (new feature, was not present in Backup and Sync)
  • Integration with Microsoft Outlook and Google Meet scheduling

Upgrading to the new Drive app

According to Google’s introduction, users of the older Backup and Sync app will start getting in-app prompts to transition to Drive for desktop, which it recommends users complete by September of this year.

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#backup-and-sync, #google, #google-workspace, #google-drive, #tech

Google opens Workspace to everyone

Google today announced that it is making Workspace, the service formerly known as G Suite (and with a number of new capabilities), available to everyone, including consumers on free Google accounts. The core philosophy behind Workspace is to enable deeper collaboration between users. You can think of it as the same Google productivity apps you’re already familiar with (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet, Chat, etc.), but with a new wrapper around it and deeper integrations between the different apps.

For individual users who want more from their Workspace, there will also be a new paid offering, though Google isn’t saying how much you’ll have to pay yet. With that, users will get access to “premium capabilities, including smart booking services, professional video meetings and personalized email marketing, with much more on the way.” We’ll likely hear more about this later this year. This new paid offering will be available “soon” in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and Japan.

Consumers will have to switch from the classic Hangouts experience (RIP) to the new Google Chat to enable it — and with this update, all users will now have access to the new Google Chat, too. Until now, only paying G Suite/Workspace users had access to this new Workspace user experience.

“Collaboration doesn’t stop at the workplace — our products have been optimized for broad participation, sharing and helpfulness since the beginning,” said Javier Soltero, VP and GM, Google Workspace. “Our focus is on delivering consumers, workers, teachers and students alike an equitable approach to collaboration, while still providing flexibility that allows these different subsets of users to take their own approach to communication and collaboration.”

Image Credits: Google

Once enabled, users will encounter quite a few user interface changes. The left rail, for example, will look a little bit like the bottom bar of Gmail on iOS and Android now, with the ability to switch between Mail, Chat, Meet and Spaces (which — yeah — I’m not sure anybody really understands this one, but more about this later). The right rail will continue to bring up various plugins and shortcuts to features like Google Calendar, Tasks and Keep.

A lot of people — especially those who simply want Gmail to be Gmail and don’t care about all of this collaboration stuff in their private lives — will hate this. But at least for the time being, you can still keep the old experience by not switching from Hangouts to the new Google Chat. But for Google, this clearly shows the path Workspace is on.

Image Credits: Google

“Back in October of last year, we announced some very significant updates to our communication and collaboration product line and our business, starting with the new brand and identity that we chose around Google Workspace that’s meant to represent what we believe is the future direction and real opportunity around our product — less around being a suite of individual products and more around being an integrated set of experiences that represent the future of work,” Soltero explained in a press briefing ahead of today’s announcement.

And then there is “Spaces.” Until now, Google Workspace features a tool called “Rooms.” Rooms are now Spaces. I’m not quite sure why, but Google says it is “evolving the Rooms experience in Google Chat into a dedicated place for organizing people, topics, and projects in Google Workspace.”

Best I can tell, these are Slack-like channels where teams can not just have conversations around a given topic but also organize relevant files and upcoming tasks, all with an integrated Google Meet experience and direct access to working on their files. That’s all good and well, but I’m not sure why Google felt the need to change the name. Maybe it just doesn’t want you to confuse Slack rooms with Google rooms. And it’s called Google Workspace, after all, not Workroom. 

New features for Rooms/Spaces include in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, expressive reactions and a collapsible view, Google says.

Both free and paid users will get access to these new Spaces once they launch later this year.

But wait, there’s more. A lot more. Google is also introducing a number of new Workspace features today. Google Meet, for example, is getting a companion mode that is meant to foster “collaboration equity in a hybrid world.” The idea here is to give meeting participants who are in a physical meeting room and are interacting with remote participants a companion experience to use features like screen sharing, polls, in-meeting chat, hand raise and Q&A live captions on their personal devices. Every participant using the companion mode will also get their own video tile. This feature will be available in September.

Image Credits: Google

Also new is an RSVP option that will allow you to select whether you will participate remotely, in a meeting room (or not at all), as well as new moderation controls to allow hosts to prevent the use of in-meeting chat and to mute and unmute individual participants.

On the security side, Google today also announced that it will allow users to bring their own encryption keys. Currently, Google encrypts your data, but it does manage the key for you. To strengthen your security, you may want to bring your own keys to the service, so Google has now partnered with providers like Flowcrypt, Futurex, Thales and Virtru to enable this.

With Client-side encryption, customer data is indecipherable to Google, while users can continue to take advantage of Google’s native web-based collaboration, access content on mobile devices, and share encrypted files externally,” writes Google directors of product management Karthik Lakshminarayanan and Erika Trautman in today’s announcement.

Image Credits: Google

Google is also introducing trust rules for Drive to give admins control over how files can be shared within an organization and externally. And to protect from real phishing threats (not those fake ones your internal security organization sends out every few weeks or so), Google is also now allowing admins to enable the same phishing protections it already offers today to content within an organization to help guard your data against insider threats.

#cloud, #enterprise, #google, #google-workspace, #tc

Google will let enterprises store their Google Workspace encryption keys

As ubiquitous as Google Docs has become in the last year alone, a major criticism often overlooked by the countless workplaces who use it is that it isn’t end-to-end encrypted, allowing Google — or any requesting government agency — access to a company’s files. But Google is finally addressing that key complaint with a round of updates that will let customers shield their data by storing their own encryption keys.

Google Workspace, the company’s enterprise offering that includes Google Docs, Slides and Sheets, is adding client-side encryption so that a company’s data will be indecipherable to Google.

Companies using Google Workspace can store their encryption keys with one of four partners for now: Flowcrypt, Futurex, Thales, or Virtru, which are compatible with Google’s specifications. The move is largely aimed at regulated industries — like finance, healthcare, and defense — where intellectual property and sensitive data are subject to intense privacy and compliance rules.

(Image: Google / supplied)

The real magic lands later in the year when Google will publish details of an API that will let enterprise customers build their own in-house key service, allowing workplaces to retain direct control of their encryption keys. That means if the government wants that company’s data, they have to knock on their front door — and not sneak around the back by serving the key holder with a legal demand.

Google published technical details of how the client-side encryption feature works, and will roll out as a beta in the coming weeks.

Tech companies giving their corporate customers control of their own encryption keys has been a growing trend in recent years. Slack and cloud vendor Egnyte bucked the trend by allowing their enterprise users to store their own encryption keys, effectively cutting themselves out of the surveillance loop. But Google has dragged its feet on encryption for so long that startups are working to build alternatives that bake in encryption from the ground up.

Google said it’s also pushing out new trust rules for how files are shared in Google Drive to give administrators more granularity on how different levels of sensitive files can be shared, and new data classification labels to mark documents with a level of sensitivity such as “secret” or “internal”.

The company said it’s improving its malware protection efforts by now blocking phishing and malware shared from within organizations. The aim is to help cut down on employees mistakenly sharing malicious documents.

#api, #cloud-storage, #computing, #cryptography, #data-protection, #data-security, #egnyte, #encryption, #end-to-end-encryption, #finance, #google, #google-workspace, #google-drive, #healthcare, #privacy, #security, #technology, #thales

Google interconnects its Workspace apps, adds a dozen new features

Google kicked off its Google I/O Developer event this afternoon with a set of new collaborative workspace tools, which it’s calling, as a group, “Smart Canvas.” The company demonstrated using how Smart Canvas works for brainstorming and project planning, showing how users could drop in ideas about an upcoming launch, share their thoughts, work on documents together, join Google Meet calls, and solve problems together.

The company says it’s enhancing its everyday collaborative documents, like Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, with a dozen some new features, as a part of its effort in the Smart Canvas update.

Now, when users @mention others in a document, a smart chip will pop up, displaying that person’s location, job title and contact information. Smart chips will also now appear for recommended files and meetings in Docs, and will soon roll out to Sheets.

Google’s assisted writing feature will now offer more inclusive language recommendations as you write — like that you use the word “chairperson” instead of “chairman,” for example.

Other updates include a pageless format in Docs to remove page boundaries, emoji reactions in Docs, the ability to import info from Calendar meeting invites, connected checklists in Docs that let you sign items to other people and see these action items in Google Tasks, Table templates in Docs, a timeline view in Sheets, more assisted analysis functionality in our Sheets, the ability to create Docs, Sheets and Slides from Google Chat rooms, and more.

One of the more interesting changes, however, was support for live captions and translations in Google Meet, and the ability to now present your content to a Google Meet call on the web directly from your Doc, Sheet or Slide. This puts Google in competition with other meeting transcription services, like Otter.ai.

The updates paint a picture of Google’s aim to make its workspace apps connect together more seamlessly, instead of being separate components — that helps to lock users inside Google’s walled garden, and makes it more difficult to swap out one of Google’s workspace apps for a competitor.

#google, #google-chat, #google-io-2021, #google-meet, #google-sheets, #google-slides, #google-workspace, #google-docs, #tc

Google Meet gets a refreshed UI, multi-pinning, autozoom and more

Google today announced a major update to Meet, its video-meeting service, which brings several user interface tweaks for desktop users, as well as quite a bit of new functionality, including multi-pinning so that you can highlight multiple feeds instead of just one, as well as new AI-driven video capabilities for light adjustments, autozoom, and a new Data Saver feature that limits data usage on slower mobile networks.

If you’re anything like me, you’re increasingly tired of video meetings (to the point where I often just keep the camera off). But the reality is that this style of meetings will be with us for the foreseeable future, whether we like them or not.

Image Credits: Google

Google notes that today’s release is meant to make meetings “more immersive, inclusive, and productive.” The new UI doesn’t look to be a radical change, but it puts more of the controls and features right at your fingertips instead of hiding them in a menu. It also consolidates them in the bottom row instead of the current system that spreads out features between the main menu bar and an additional small menu at the top.

For presenters who don’t want to see themselves on the screen, Meet now also lets you minimize or completely hide your own video feed — and if you really want to glance into your own eyes, you can also pin your feed to the rest of the grid. Google says it also plans to soon let you turn off your self-feed across all Meet calls.

Image Credits: Google

Talking about pinning, one feature that seems especially useful is the ability to highlight multiple feeds. This new multi-pinning capability will make it easier to focus on the participants in a chat that are most active, for example. This feature will roll out in the coming months.

And coming in a few months, some of those highlighted feeds may look a bit more interesting (or annoying, depending on your point of view) because one new feature Google has planned — but isn’t ready to roll out yet — is video background replacement. For now, Google will only offer three scenes: a classroom, a party and a forest. The company says more will follow, but it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to bring your own videos to this feature anytime soon.

Image Credits: Google

Other new features in this release include Meet’s capability to automatically spruce up your video feed a bit to make sure you’re more visible in a dark environment and enhance your video when you are sitting in front of a bright background. This will roll out in the coming weeks. There’s also autozoom, which uses AI to automatically zoom in on you and put you in the middle of your frame. That’s coming to paid Google Workspace subscribers in the coming months.

#artificial-intelligence, #chrome-os, #google, #google-search, #google-workspace, #google-talk, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #software, #tc

Google Cloud launches a new support option for mission critical workloads

Google Cloud today announced the launch of a new support option for its Premium Support customers that run mission-critical services on its platform. The new service, imaginatively dubbed Mission Critical Services (MCS), brings Google’s own experience with Site Reliability Engineering to its customers. This is not Google completely taking over the management of these services, though. Instead, the company describes it as a “consultative offering in which we partner with you on a journey toward readiness.”

Initially, Google will work with its customers to improve — or develop — the architecture of their apps and help them instrument the right monitoring systems and controls, as well as help them set and raise their service-level objectives (a key feature in the Site Reliability Engineering philosophy).

Later, Google will also provide ongoing check-ins with its engineers and walk customers through tune-ups architecture reviews. “Our highest tier of engineers will have deep familiarity with your workloads, allowing us to monitor, prevent, and mitigate impacts quickly, delivering the fastest response in the industry. For example, if you have any issues–24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week–we’ll spin up a live war room with our experts within five minutes,” Google Cloud’s VP for Customer Experience, John Jester, explains in today’s announcement.

This new offering is another example of how Google Cloud is trying to differentiate itself from the rest of the large cloud providers. Its emphasis today is on providing the high-touch service experiences that were long missing from its platform, with a clear emphasis on the needs of large enterprise customers. That’s what Thomas Kurian promised to do when he became the organization’s CEO and he’s clearly following through.

 

#artificial-intelligence, #ceo, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #enterprise, #google, #google-cloud, #google-workspace, #technology, #thomas-kurian, #world-wide-web

Google updates Workspace

Google Workspace, the company’s productivity platform you’ll forever refer to as G Suite (or even ‘Google Docs’), is launching a large update today that touches everything from your calendar to Google Meet and how you can use Workspace with the Google Assistant.

Image Credits: Google

Indeed, the highlight here is probably that you can now use the Assistant in combination with Google Workspace, allowing you to check your work calendar or send a message to your colleagues. Until now, this feature was available in beta and ever after it goes live, your company’s admins will have to turn on the “Search and Assistant” service. And this is a bit of a slow rollout, too, with this capability now being generally available on mobile but still in beta for smart speakers and displays like Google’s own Nest Hub. Still, it’s been a long time coming, given that Google promised these features a very long time ago now.

The other new feature that will directly influence your day-to-day work is support for recurring out-of-office entries and segmentable working hours, as well as a new event type, Focus Time, to help you minimize distractions. Focus Time is a bit cleverer than the three-hour blocks of time you may block off on your calendar anyway in that limits notifications during those event windows. Google is also launching a new analytics feature that tells you how much time you waste spend in meetings. This isn’t quite as fully featured (and potentially creepy) as Microsoft’s Productivity Score, since it only displays how much time you spend in meetings, but it’s a nice overview of how you spend your days (though you know that already). None of this data is shared with your managers.

For when you go back to an office, Google is also adding location indicators to Workspace so you can share when you will be working from there and when you’ll be working from home.

And talking about meetings, since most of these remain online for the time being, Google is adding a few new features that now allow those of you who use their Google Nest Hub Max to host meetings at home and a laptop to set up their own second-screen experiences. What’s far more important, though, is that when you join a meeting on mobile, Google will now implement a picture-in-picture mode so you can be in that Meet meeting on your phone and still browse the web Gmail and get important work done during that brainstorming session.

Mobile support for background replace is also coming, as well as the addition of Q&As and polls on mobile. Currently, you can only blur your background on mobile.

Image Credits: Google

For frontline workers, Google is adding something it calls Google Workspace Frontline, with new features for this group of users, and it is also making it easier for users to build custom AppSheet apps from Google Sheets and Drive, “so that frontline workers can digitize and streamline their work, whether it’s collecting data in the field, reporting safety risks, or managing customer requests.”

 

#assistant, #computing, #enterprise, #gmail, #google, #google-nest-hub-max, #google-workspace, #google-calendar, #google-drive, #mobile-software, #software, #tc, #workspace

Magical raises $3.3M to modernize calendars

Calendars. They are at the core of how we organize our workdays and meetings, but despite regular attempts to modernize the overall calendar experience, the calendar experience you see today in Outlook or G Suite Google Workspace hasn’t really changed at its core. And for the most part, the area that startups like Calendly or ReclaimAI have focused on in recent years is scheduling.

Magical is a Tel Aviv-based startup that wants to reinvent the calendar experience from the ground up and turn it into more of a team collaboration tool than simply a personal time-management service. The company today announced that it has raised a $3.3 million seed round led by Resolute Ventures, with additional backing from Ibex Investors, Aviv Growth Partners, ORR Partners, Homeward Ventures and Fusion LA, as well as several angel investors in the productivity space.

The idea for the service came from discussions on Supertools, a large workplace-productivity community, which was also founded by Magical founder and CEO Tommy Barav.

Image Credits: Magical

Based on the feedback from the community — and his own consulting work with large Fortune 500 multinationals — Barav realized that time management remains an unsolved business problem. “The time management space is so highly fragmented,” he told me. “There are so many micro tools and frameworks to manage time, but they’re not built inside of your calendar, which is the main workflow.”

Traditional calendars are add-ons to bigger product bundles and find themselves trapped under those, he argues. “The calendar in Outlook is an email sidekick, but it’s actually the center of your day. So there is an unmet need to use the calendar as a time management hub,” he said.

Magical, which is still in private beta, aims to integrate many of the features we’re seeing from current scheduling and calendaring startups, including AI-scheduling and automation tools. But Magical’s ambition is larger than that.

Image Credits: Magical

“We want to redefine how you use a calendar in the first place,” Barav said. “Many of the innovations that we’ve seen are associated with scheduling: how you schedule your time, letting you streamline the way you schedule meetings, how you see your calendar. […] But we’re talking about redefining time management by giving you a better calendar, by bringing these workflows — scheduling, coordinating and utilizing — into your calendar. We’re redefining the use of the calendar in the modern workspace.”

Since Magical is still in its early days, the team is still working out some of the details, but the general idea is to, for example, turn the calendar into the central repository for meeting notes — and Magical will feature tools to collaborate on these notes and share them. Team members will also be able to follow those meeting notes without having to participate in the actual meeting (or get copied on the emails about that meeting).

“We’ll help teams reduce pointless meetings,” Barav noted. To do this, the team is also integrating other service into the calendar experience, including the usual suspects like Zoom and Slack, but also Salesforce and Notion, for example.

“It’s rare that you find an entrepreneur who has so clearly validated its market opportunity,” said Mike Hirshland, a founding partner of Magical investor Resolute Ventures. “Tommy and his team have been talking to thousands of users for three years, they’ve validated the opportunity, and they’ve designed a product from the ground-up that meets the needs of the market. Now it’s ‘go time’ and I’m thrilled to be part of the journey ahead.”

#artificial-intelligence, #calendar, #ceo, #google, #google-workspace, #ical, #louisiana, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #outlook-com, #recent-funding, #resolute-ventures, #startups, #tc, #tel-aviv, #time-management

Google refreshes its mobile search experience

Google today announced a subtle but welcome refresh of its mobile search experience. The idea here is to provide easier to read search results and a more modern look with a simpler, edge-to-edge design.

From what we’ve seen so far, this is not a radically different look, but the rounded and slightly shaded boxes around individual search results have been replaced with straight lines, for example, while in other places, Google has specifically added more roundness. You’ll find changes to the circles around the search bar and some tweaks to the Google logo. “We believe it feels more approachable, friendly, and human,” a Google spokesperson told me. There’s a bit more whitespace in places, too, as well as new splashes of color that are meant to help separate and emphasize certain parts of the page.

Image Credits: Google

“Rethinking the visual design for something like Search is really complex,” Google designer Aileen Cheng said in today’s announcement. “That’s especially true given how much Google Search has evolved. We’re not just organizing the web’s information, but all the world’s information. We started with organizing web pages, but now there’s so much diversity in the types of content and information we have to help make sense of.”

Image Credits: Google

Google is also extending its use of the Google Sans font, which you are probably already quite familiar with thanks to its use in Gmail and Android. “Bringing consistency to when and how we use fonts in Search was important, too, which also helps people parse information more efficiently,” Aileen writes.

In many ways, today’s refresh is a continuation of the work Google did with its mobile search refresh in 2019. At that time, the emphasis, too, was on making it easier for users to scan down the page by adding site icons and other new visual elements to the page. The work of making search results pages more readable is clearly never done.

For the most part, though, comparing the new and old design, the changes are small. This isn’t some major redesign but we’re talking about minor tweaks that the designers surely obsessed over but that the users may not even really notice. Now if Google had made it significantly easier to distinguish ads from the content you are actually looking for, that would’ve been something.

Image Credits: Google

#android, #computing, #designer, #gmail, #google, #google-search, #google-workspace, #google-drive, #mobile, #mobile-search, #operating-systems, #search-results, #spokesperson, #technology

Google’s new logos are bad

Google really whiffed with the new logos for its “reimagination” of G Suite as Google Workspace, replacing icons that are familiar, recognizable, and in Gmail’s case iconic if you will, with little rainbow blobs that everyone will now struggle to tell apart in their tabs. Companies always talk loud and long about their design language and choices, so as an antidote I thought I’d just explain why these new ones are bad and probably won’t last.

First I should say that I understand Google’s intent here, to unify the visual language of the various apps in its suite. That can be important, especially with a company like Google, which abandons apps, services, design languages, and other things like ballast out of a sinking hot air balloon (a remarkably apt comparison, in fact).

We’ve seen so many Google icon languages over the years that it’s hard to bring oneself to care about new ones. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, if you wait long enough by the river, the bodies of your favorite Google products will float by. Better not to get attached.

But sometimes they do something so senseless that it is incumbent upon anyone who cares at all to throw the company’s justification in its face and tell them they blew it; The last time I cared enough was with Google Reader. Since I and a hundred million other people will have to stare at these ugly new icons all day until they retire them, maybe making a little noise will accelerate that timeline a bit.

Sorry if I let myself prose a bit here, but I consider it an antidote to the endless design stories these almost without exception ill-advised redesigns always come with. I’ll limit discussion of how these icons go wrong to three general ways: color, shape, and brand.

Color

Color is one of the first things you notice about something, and you can recognize colors easily even in your peripheral vision. So having a distinct color is important to type and design in lots of ways. Why do you think companies go so crazy about all those different shades of blue?

That’s part of why the icons of the most popular Google apps are so easily distinguished. Gmail’s red color goes back a decade and more, and Calendar’s blue is pretty old as well. The teal of Meet probably should have just stayed green, like its predecessor Hangouts, but it’s at least somewhat distinct. Likewise Keep (remember Keep?) and a handful of other lesser actors. More importantly, they’re solid — except for a few that were better for their colors, like Maps, before its icon got assassinated.

There are two problems with the colors of the new icons. First is that they don’t really have colors. They all have all the colors, which just right off the bat makes it harder to tell them apart at a glance. Remember, you’re never going to see this big like in the image above. More often they’ll be more this size:

Maybe even smaller. And never that close. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell them apart when I’m not looking directly at them. What exactly are you looking for? They all have every color, and not even in the same order or direction — you see how some are red, yellow, green, blue and one is red, yellow, blue, green? Three (with Gmail) clockwise and two anti-clockwise, too. Sounds unimportant but your eye picks up on stuff like that, but maybe just enough that you’re more confused. Maybe these would have been better if they all started with red in the top left or something, and cycled through. They don’t randomize the order of the colors in the main Google logo, right? Ultimately these little blobs just resemble toys or crunched up candy wrappers. At best it’s plaid, and that’s Slack territory.

At first I thought the little red triangular tabs were a nice visual indicator, but somehow they messed that up too. Each icon should have the tab in a different corner, but Calendar and Drive both have it on the bottom right. They’re different kinds of triangles, I suppose — that’s a freebie from trigonometry.

You’ll also notice that the icons have a sort of lopsided weight. That’s because against a light background, different colors have different visual salience. Darker colors pop more against a white background than yellow or the tiny bit of red, making the icons seem to have heavy “L” aspects to them, on the left in Gmail and Calendar, bottom left in Drive and Meet, bottom right in Docs. But in an inactive tab, the light color will be more salient, and those L’s will seem to be on the other sides.

Shape

This is a good segue into the shape problems, because the perceived shape of these icons will change depending on the background. The original icons solved this by having a solid shape unique to them, and the background didn’t really leak through. You have to be real careful about transparent parts of your design — positive and negative space and all that. If you surrender any part of your logo to the background, you’re at the whim of whatever UI or theme the user has chosen. Will these logos look good with a hole in the middle looking onto a dark grey inactive tab? Or will the hole be filled in with white, making it positive space when on a dark background and negative when on white?

Anyhow the issue with these icons is that their shapes are bad. They’re all hollow, and four of them are rectangular if you include Gmail’s negative space (and we do — Google taught us to). The general shape of a container is a perfectly good one, but at a glance four of them are basically just angular O’s. Do you want the tallish O, the pointy one, or one of the two square O’s with slightly different color patterns? At a distance, who can tell? They only now resemble the thing they’re supposed do if you look really closely.

Now that I think of it, those shapes really scream Office and Bing too, don’t they? Not great!

While we’re at it, the thin type in the Calendar’s open space is pretty anemic compared with the big thick border, right? Maybe they should have gone with bold.

And last, the overlapping colors make for trouble. For one thing it makes the Drive logo look like a biohazard symbol. But it adds a lot of complexity that’s hard to follow at a small scale. The original Drive logo had three colors, to be sure, and a little drop shadow so you’d see it was a Moebius strip implying infinity and not just a triangle (that’s gone too — so why keep the triangle?) — but the colors set each other off: Blue and yellow make green, two primaries and their secondary.

The new ones have all three primaries, one secondary, and two tertiary (if you count darkness as a color). They don’t help the shapes exist in any identifiable way. Are you looking through them? That doesn’t seem right. They kind of fold, but how? Are the strips these are made of twisting? I don’t think so. The shapes aren’t things — they’re just arrangements, suggestions of the things they once were, removed one step too far.

Brand

Google’s no stranger to throwing value in the trash. But you’d think that sometimes they’d recognize when they have a good thing going. The Gmail logo was a good thing. I have to say I preferred the old angular one when they switched to the rounded icon some years back, but it’s grown on me. The natural “M” shape of a the envelope is emphasized so well, and the red-and-white color is so instantly recognizable and readable — this is the kind of logo you hold onto for a long, long time. Or not!

The problem here is that now Gmail, which has essentially operated as its own, completely invincible brand for more than a decade (which is eons in tech, let alone tech logos), has been put on equal footing with other services that aren’t as trusted or as widely used.

Now Gmail is just another rainbow shape in a sea of very similar rainbow shapes, which tells the user “this service isn’t special to us. This is not the service that has worked so well for you, for so long. This is just one finger on the hand of an internet giant. And now you can never see one without thinking of the other.”

Same for all the rest of these little color wheels: You’ll never forget that they’re all part of the same apparatus that knows everything you search for, every site you visit, and now, everything you do at work. Oh, they’re very polite about it. But make no mistake, the homogeneous branding (for all its color heterogeneity) is the prelude to a brand crunch in which you are no longer just a Gmail user, you’re in Google’s house, all day, every day.

“This is the moment in which we break free from defining the structure and the role of our offerings in terms that were invented by somebody else in a very different era,” Google VP Javier Soltero told Fast Company.

The message is clear: Out with the old — the things that built your trust; and in with the new — the things that capitalize on your trust.

#design, #google, #google-workspace, #opinion

G Suite is now Google Workspace

Google is rebranding G Suite, its set of online productivity and collaboration tools for businesses that include the likes of Gmail, Drive, Docs and Meet. The new name is Google Workspace, a name the company already hinted at when it first introduced a set of new collaboration tools and Google Meet integrations for the service earlier this year. Now those new tools are coming out of preview and with that, the company decided to also give the service a new name and introduce new logos for all the included productivity apps, which are now being used — and paid for — by more than 6 million businesses.

Image Credits: Google

G Suite, as the brand for Google’s paid offering, originally launched in 2016. In a press briefing ahead of today’s announcement, Google’s Javier Soltero, the company’s VP and GM for what is now Google Workspace, noted that the company wanted to ensure that the service that people use is the same thing that people buy.

Image Credits: Google

“By selecting Google Workspace, we get the brand association with Google, which is really important to us,” he said. “These products are flagship products for Google itself — and the ability to actually describe the product in the same way, whether it’s to a buyer or to a user.” Google, he added, wants its customers to see Workspace as a product that brings together all the tools they need to get their work done.

What’s maybe far more important than the brand, though, is that Google is also launching a few new features for G Suite Workplace today. For the most part, these are the Meet, Chat and Rooms integrations the company already announced earlier this summer. Google is now integrating all of these collaboration tools across its applications, with Gmail currently being the one service where they all come together.

Image Credits: Google

Among the new features that are coming soon are the ability to create and collaborate on documents with guests in Chat rooms and to preview linked files in Docs, Sheets and Slides without having to open them in a new tab. Whenever you @mention somebody in a document, Workplace will also pop up a smart chip, as Google calls it, to show you contact details and suggest actions (think starting a video call or chat — or to email them if you’re old school).

Gmail and Chat already feature a picture-in-picture mode that allows you to have Google Meet video calls in those services. This feature will roll out to Docs, Sheets and Slides in the coming months, too.

Pricing will mostly remain the same, though the naming is changing here a bit, too. The cheapest plan, Business Starter, starts at $6/month and users who need more storage and support for larger meetings can opt for the Business Standard plan for $12/user/month. What’s new is the $18/user/month Business Plus plan that includes additional security features and compliance tools like Vault and mobile device management capabilities.

#chrome-os, #cloud-applications, #collaboration-tools, #computing, #g-suite, #gm, #gmail, #google, #google-workspace, #javier-soltero, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #tc, #workspace