Roughly eight months after unveiling Workspace — a collection of cloud computing and collaboration tools — in limited access, Google today announced that the platform is available to anyone with a Google account. Called Workspace Individual, Google says the new, broadly accessible edition of Workspace is designed to help small and medium-size business owners take advantage of booking services, video meetings, personalized email marketing, and more from a single pane of glass.

Remote work is on the rise. With the need to manage distributed workforces, organizations have ramped up their usage of videoconferencing platforms. Global Market Insights predicts the videoconferencing market alone will grow 19% between 2020 and 2026, reaching $50 billion in value by 2026. Zoom alone now hosts 45 billion minutes of webinars a year.

Against this backdrop, Workspace Individual is debuting with the same range of features as Workspace proper, including apps like Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Meet, as well as capabilities like smart suggestions that help bring in recommended files and include people with mentions. Also in tow is smart canvas, announced in May at Google I/O, which facilitates tasks like generating a checklist in Docs and quickly assigning roles and next steps.

Google Workspace

Above: The new Companion Mode in Google Meet.

Image Credit: Google

Workspace Individual customers can also turn on Google Chat, which enables them to use the Rooms feature in Chat as a central place to connect with coworkers. Google says that over the summer, Rooms will evolve to become Spaces, which will introduce a new user interface featuring in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, expressive reactions, and a collapsible view for files and tasks.

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Companion Mode and Meet hardware

Google says that Meet’s Companion Mode, another feature the company previewed in May, will arrive in September on the web and come to mobile soon after. Companion Mode is designed to connect members in a room with teammates via controls like screen sharing, polls, in-meeting chat, hand raise, Q&A, live captions, and more. Colleagues in the same meeting room will be able to enable Companion Mode on their smartphones, which will give them their own video tile in Meet, and meeting invitees will be able to RSVP with their join locations, indicating whether they’ll be joining in a meeting room or remotely.

Updates to improve the in-room experience are also headed to Google Meet hardware in September, Google says, including the ability to see and use the recently launched hand-raise feature and receive notifications from polls and Q&As. In the next few months, the company plans to pilot moderation controls for hosts, giving them the ability to prevent the use of in-meeting chat and prohibit presenting during meetings while allowing control to mute and prevent participants from unmuting.

Google Workspace

Above: The upcoming Spaces experience.

Image Credit: Google

Google introduced Google Meet hardware in September, starting with the Google Meet Series One. The Series One compute system and sound bar both include the company’s Coral Accelerator Module with Google Edge tensor processing units (TPUs) to drive the audio and video and come in kits sized for rooms holding up to 20 people.

Google’s continued investment in Workspace — and Meet in particular — demonstrates the company’s confidence in the collaboration software market’s growth potential. Indeed, video calls have made a lot of business travel nonessential, with 43% of frequent business travelers telling consultancy Oliver Wyman they expect to travel less even after the COVID-19 pandemic. And nearly 9 in 10 employees say that videoconferences reduce the time it takes to complete their projects, resulting in operational savings thanks to more efficient collaboration.

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