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Google Bets on New Chat and Video Features to Help Battle Microsoft and Zoom

Google Workspace -- formerly known as G Suite -- lets users collaborate on docs and watch video meetings from their Gmail inboxes.

Google  (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report is betting that tighter integration across its e-mail, chat, video, cloud storage and productivity apps -- along with a new name and pricing options -- will put it on better footing against the likes of Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report and Zoom  (ZM) - Get Zoom Video Communications (ZM) Report.

On Tuesday, Google announced that its productivity app suite, which until now was known as G Suite, will be known as Google Workspace going forward. The company also announced that the revamped “integrated user experience” for its productivity and communications apps/services that it first discussed in July is now generally available to paid subs, and that consumers will get it “in the coming months.”

Among the features covered by this integrated UI: Users can join video meetings from their Gmail inboxes, chat from their iOS and Android Gmail apps and share files and tasks within chats. And like Slack’s  (WORK) - Get Slack Technologies, Inc. Class A Report Connect platform for inter-company collaboration, Google Chat will let workers create rooms that include people outside of their company.

Google Workspace will let users collaborate on docs via Gmail and Chat. Source: Google.

Google Workspace will let users collaborate on docs via Gmail and Chat. Source: Google.

Other new features include the ability to collaborate on a doc with chat guests within Gmail; the ability to preview a linked file within productivity apps such as Docs and Sheets without opening a new tab; and the ability to share files and tasks within chat. Google is also rolling out a picture-in-picture mode for its Meet voice/video calling service that works across Gmail, Chat and its productivity apps.

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In addition, Google is now offering businesses a couple of new plans. In addition to its existing $6/user/month and $12/user/month plans (they’re now known as Business Starter and Business Standard), Google is selling an $18/month Business Plus plan that adds security, compliance and mobile device management (MDM) features, as well as an $8/month Essentials plan.

These plans all come with customer support and custom e-mail domains, with video meeting features and bundled cloud storage varying based on which plan is chosen. There’s also an Enterprise plan that comes with “premium” support, unlimited storage and additional encryption and video meeting features, and for which pricing is negotiated with clients.

Google reported having more than 6 million paid G Suite/Workspace customers back in April, up from 5 million as of early 2019. However, Microsoft’s Office platform -- aided by Microsoft’s decades-old enterprise relationships, a large ecosystem of third-party integrations and Microsoft’s success at migrating customers to Office 365 subscriptions that often bundle a slew of storage, collaboration, security, device management and business process automation offerings -- is still dominant in the productivity app space.

In Q2, Alphabet reported that its “Google Cloud” revenue, which covered both G Suite subscriptions and its sizable public cloud services business, totaled $3 billion.

For comparison, Microsoft’s Productivity and Business Processes segment, which covers revenue from Office, LinkedIn and the Dynamics business app unit, posted June quarter revenue of $11.8 billion. From all indications, Office is by far the segment’s largest top-line contributor.