If your head isn’t already spinning, there’s just one more bit of important information: Google Workspace (previously called G Suite, previously a paid-for package for businesses) is now going to be expanded to everyone with a Google account, offering improved integration between the multitude of Google apps available on the web and on mobile.
What’s Happening Now
There are two main changes that Google is pushing through during the rest of this year. First, Google Chat and Google Meet are replacing Hangouts—in the corner of Gmail on the web, on your phone, and everywhere else. Your previous Hangouts chats should be carried over, and in part this will be just a rebranding exercise: Activate Google Chat in Gmail, install the app on your phone, and you can carry on with Google Chat where you left off with Hangouts, down to the individual conversations.
As we’ve said, there are going to be some extra features, forged during the time these apps have spent as business products. You’ll get new tools, like being able to @mention contacts on documents or build up conversations with multiple threads, and so on—only you’ll be using them with family members and friends rather than colleagues from work.
Second, and very much along the same theme, a more lightweight version of the business Workspace package is going to be accessible to everyone with a Google account over the coming months. As with Google Chat and Google Meet, this is Google giving consumers some more professional-level tools, only the idea is that they get used for your local PTA meeting, your weekly book club, or your family reunion.
These upgrades won’t be huge, but they will be noticeable. You’ll still have access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and so on, as you always have, but they’ll be linked together even more closely, and built for collaboration and sharing. For example, you’ll be able to create a checklist of tasks and assign each task to a different contact. A lot of the new functions will be partly powered by Google Chat, which is the thread running through everything.
It’s appropriate, then, that you can activate Google Workspace for your account by turning on Google Chat in Gmail: From the Chat and Meet tab of the Gmail Settings page, select Google Chat next to Chat. Although it’s taken us a long time to explain what’s happening, in terms of what you’ll see as a user there isn’t going to be a huge swathe of changes: The tools you already use will get a few upgrades, a cleaner look, and better integration with each other. (Oh, and you might see the word “Workspace” more often.)