Update 07/15/2020 at 4:30pm: Google announced the new Gmail after it leaked. The search giant plans to make it available as an “early access preview” before rolling it out to all G Suite customers later this year. You can learn more here.
According to leaked slides from Google’s ‘Cloud Next ’20: OnAir‘ digital event, the search giant plans to transform Gmail into a central hub for work.
The move comes on the heels of the recent ‘Meet’ integration. Gmail gained a tab for accessing Google’s businhttps://mobilesyrup.slack.com/messages/@slackbot/ess-oriented video conferencing tool. However, Gmail will become the “new home for work” with ‘Chat’ and ‘Rooms’ tabs as well.
Software engineer Tahin Rahman (@tahins) shared the slides on Twitter. The images come from the Cloud Next ’20: OnAir website. One slide says, “Introducing your new home for work.” It shows Gmail with the regular inbox, as well as Chat, Rooms and Meet interfaces.
Another slide shows that something similar to Gmail’s ‘Nudges’ feature will come to the other tabs. Nudges automatically highlight certain things in your inbox that may need attention. For example, if you didn’t reply to an email, Gmail might highlight it and suggest you continue the correspondence.
The new Gmail appears to offer similar suggestions in the Chat and Rooms interfaces.
— Tahin Rahman (@tahins) July 14, 2020
The Chat section of the app will facilitate one-to-one chats and offer profile avatars, activity/status indicators and more.
On the other hand, Rooms looks to be a place for larger team conversations or group projects. Although we don’t know a lot about Rooms at the moment, it seems to be a competitor to Slack and Microsoft Teams. One of the slides shows an example of editing a full Google Doc right from the Rooms interface in the Gmail web app.
That slide points out that Meet will support picture-in-picture (PiP) video calls as well. Some of the other slides show off upcoming Google Meet features like hand raising, Q&A, meeting attendance and blurred or custom backgrounds. Google announced these features last month and plans to launch them in the coming months.
Interestingly, rumours from earlier this year suggested Google was working on a unified productivity platform. It seemed like Google planned to make a chat app with integration across Gmail, Google Docs and other G Suite services. Instead, it looks like the plan was to bring that all into Gmail.
Considering that’s where users already are, it’s a smart move. By kitting out Gmail with these new features, they’ll be front and centre for people. My concern with this, however, is that the shift could go too far and overload Gmail. For one, it could leave the Gmail app bloated and slow. Worse, it could frustrate average users who may not need or want all these extra capabilities. Hopefully Google lets people toggle these extras off as they did with the Meet integration.
We’ll likely learn more about the new Gmail in the coming weeks.