Google opens up Workspace to consumers, announces new Spaces chat

Spaces looks a lot like, well, Teams and Slack.

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Google announced changes to Workspace (formerly known at G Suite) and announced a new service called Spaces on Monday. Effective immediately, Google is opening up its unified Workspace experience to anyone with a Gmail account—and adding an individual Workspace paid account. Meanwhile Spaces is yet another collaborative environment that will sit alongside the “smart canvas” concept Google announced last month.

Monday’s announcements are just another step along Google’s path of organizing its Google apps like Docs and Sheets into a more cohesive experience. Last October, Google announced that it was changing the name of Google G Suite to Google Workspace, and embarking upon cross-app collaboration. Google began the process with its paid Google’s paid plans, leaving the transition of consumer offerings until later. Now, that time has arrived.

Today, consumers with a Gmail account can try out the new Workspace collaborative experience. This allows consumers who open a Google Docs document in Google Chat for Gmail, for example, to share it with others who can then collaboratively edit it. 

To enable the new feature, you’ll need to turn on Google Chat within Gmail. (Yes, Google Chat within Gmail is different than Google Chat.) To enable the unified experience, perform these steps, courtesy of Google.

  1. On your computer, open Gmail.
  2. At the top right, click the Settings gear "" and then View all settings.
  3. At the top, click Chat and Meet.
  4. Next to “Chat,” to turn Chat on or off in Gmail, select Google Chat or Off.
  5. Click Save Changes.

Google is also announcing a specialized individual business Workspace account, for gig or contract workers. According to Google, the new account “provides premium capabilities, including smart booking services, professional video meetings and personalized email marketing, with much more on the way.” Google isn’t saying much more, though users can sign up for more news on the plan. The Google Workspace Individual subscription will be $9.99/month, with an introductory monthly price of $7.99, a Google representative said via email.

Google announces Google Workspace Spaces

As noted above, Google Chat and Chat in Gmail are two different things—and it turns out that difference is more significant than you might imagine. In fact, Google even has to spell it out in a support document.  “You get the same features in Chat and Chat in Gmail, but the integrated Gmail experience provides a central location to communicate with friends, family, or coworkers between emails,” Google says.

Right now, Google Chat offers Rooms, which allows Chat users to carve out small group chats. This summer, Google will rename Rooms as Spaces—“a dedicated place for organizing people, topics, and projects in Google Workspace,” Google said. “Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and launch a streamlined and flexible user interface that helps teams and individuals stay on top of everything that’s important.”

You might think that Spaces would be where Google will evolve its “smart canvas” concept, and allow it to flourish. Smart Canvas includes what Google calls “smart chips,” or links to users and files that can be referenced and linked to. But a Google representative said the new Spaces announcement was “separate” from Smart Canvas, leaving the question of how different the user experience in Spaces will be from the rest of Google’s vision. 

google workspace spaces Google

A snapshot of Spaces, the evolution of Google Workspace Rooms.

Spaces, according to an image Google published, looks very much like, well, Microsoft Teams or Slack, with posts and replies, reactions, and more. What we don’t know, of course, is whether this user interface will eventually be pushed to consumers as well. 

In fact, Google has only sketched out its collaborative future in broad strokes. For now, it all hinges—rather weirdly, we think—on which version of Google Chat you prefer. 

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