Google is keen to make Gmail your go-to hub for more than just messages. As The Verge noted, Google is rolling out a larger Workspace update (more on that shortly) that will add direct calling via Google Meet to the Gmail mobile app. You'll get to ring up your coworkers and other contacts for a quick one-on-one when email or a scheduled meeting won't do. The feature will also send a "chip" to your computer if you'd rather answer on the larger screen.
The company has pitched the feature as a rough equivalent to "spontaneous" office chats in a hybrid work environment where some staff are at home. And before you ask — yes, the Meet app will eventually add this calling feature as well.
The Workspace changes also include a broader redesign of Gmail that makes it a hub for other activities. You'll now see Google's promised "spaces," a renamed and expanded version of Rooms chat channels with full threaded messages and the option of making spaces visible in search. You can accordingly expect easier navigation between email, chats, spaces and Meet, not to mention improved admin and security tools to help manage communications. Enterprise users should see these changes starting today, but everyday Gmail owners will see updates later on.
Other tweaks include options to specify whether you're in-office or virtual on a given day (important for planning meetings) and a Companion mode for Meet that lets you use a conference room's audiovisual hardware. Google is expanding its Meet hardware ecosystem, too. There are two new Series One devices (third-party equipment made to fit Google's goals), including the Series One Desk 27 all-in-one and Series One Board 65 4K collaborative board. More gadgets are Meet-certified, too, such as Logitech's Rally Bar and Rally Bar Mini room solutions as well as the Rayz Rally Pro speaker dock.
Google's ambitions for Gmail are fairly clear. Much like Microsoft Outlook, it's becoming a gateway for all office communication, not just email and the occasional meeting. That's not surprising when Google is directly competing with Office. At the same time, it does raise questions about support for dedicated apps. What need is there for other clients when Gmail theoretically does it all? Still, you might not mind if it saves you from switching apps and potentially losing focus.