As part of a move to enhance their offerings for enterprise clients, Google announced some improvements and enhancements to their Google Cloud platform and in particular to their set of tools previously known as Google Apps for Work. Those tools are basically a subset of all of Google’s applications that are available to run on a specific domain instead of via google.com. They include tools like Gmail, Docs, Drive and Calendar amongst others. Going forward, the bundle of apps will be called G Suite and Google is giving them some new features to make them more “intelligent.”
Google says part of their goal with the enhancements they are rolling out is to make the apps available in G Suite more intelligent and able to help businesses and enterprises break down the silos that are so common in the business world. By encouraging teamwork and collaboration, G Suite can help organizations survive in the world ahead. Some of the benefits of G Suite are already well known to users, like the ability to access documents and information from multiple devices or being able to engage in collaboration in real-time as several people work within the same document at once.
Part of what makes all of the enhancements and improvements possible is the machine learning and artificial intelligence that Google has been moving ahead with. Consumers have seen the highlight of these efforts in the new Google Assistant found in Allo, but the same technology is powering other improvements in Google apps.
Users will find that in Google Drive, the app now presents a ribbon of possible files to open that help cut down on time searching for a file. The new “Quick Access” is more than just most recent files. Google’s algorithms look at things like time of day, when you have meetings coming up, or what your typical work rhythm is to anticipate what files you are most likely looking for. Google says this feature can cut typical time spent searching for files by 50%.
In the Calendar app, users will now benefit from smarter scheduling algorithms the machine intelligence can automatically suggest times and resources that are free for a meeting. Google says if the list of invitees gets to be long and conflicts are unavoidable, the Calendar can recognize conflicts that might be the easiest to adjust, like a one-on-one meeting involving a potential participant.
Within Drive, one of the apps getting an enhancement is Google Sheets, the spreadsheet program. In the past, Google released Explore, a feature that would help users quickly summarize data and produce charts and graphs. Google recognized a problem for many users was not knowing how to write formulas that would give them the results they were looking for. Using machine intelligence, Sheets can now take natural language queries and convert them into the appropriate formula for a user.
The Explore function in Google Docs, the word processing platform, gets an upgrade as well. When a user is writing about a given topic, Explore will automatically search the web for related content that may be useful or images or even related documents in Drive. Users can then drag and drop information into their documents to help flesh out their writing.
Not to be left out, Google Slides, the presentation app, gets a similar Explore upgrade. For presentations, the machine intelligence will offer up ideas on layout suggestions to give a presentation a much more polished look.
Google also made changes to how Drive works within G Suite so that it is focused more on teams as opposed to individual users trying to share content. This means ownership and sharing permissions are now set at the team level. Google points out this will be especially useful when onboarding or offboarding a team member. This function is not quite ready for prime time, but customers can get access through the Early Adopter Program.
Finally, Google previously indicated Hangouts would be getting shifted over to being a more enterprise focused platform with the release of Allo and Duo for general consumers. Some of that is apparent as Hangouts gets easy link generation and dial-in phone number generation for meetings and the user interface can now accommodate up to 50 video participants. These enhancements are also limited to the Early Adopter Program for the time being.