Google opens Workspace apps to developers

Google opened up its Workspace productivity suite to third-party developers this week, adding a number of incremental features that improve video conferencing, collaboration and data retrieval.

The company unveiled improvements to its Meet, Chat, and Smart Canvas workspace apps Tuesday at the Google Cloud Next ’22 conference. Google also unveiled tools for partners to integrate their online services with Workspace products.

Overall, the improvements are likely to appeal to Workspace customers, many of whom are school districts, colleges, and nonprofits. But experts say the latest features are unlikely to change Workspace’s distant second place to Microsoft 365 in the enterprise market.

“I don’t see Google making the investments needed to break this pattern,” said Gartner analyst Brian Doherty. “I don’t see anything here that would weaken Microsoft’s dominance [in the enterprise].”

To expand its customer base, Google introduced integration technology for Docs, Meet and Chat.

The company opened up its smart canvas collaboration and data retrieval tool in Docs to third-party applications. Google will make it possible to insert interactive information and previews from the apps into a Docs document. Google partners using this feature include Altirnao with its AODocs; Atlasian; asanas; figma; Miro; Tableau and Zendesk.

Google plans to make the app integrations available to all Docs customers starting in January. The company expects to roll out smart canvas capabilities to its Sheets spreadsheets before the end of the year.

Other developer features include APIs to start Meet video meetings or chat conversations through a third-party app. Google partners Asana and LumApps will be the first to use this technology.

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With a Meet add-on SDK, developers can embed their apps directly into a video conference. Figma will use the technology to bring its digital whiteboard to Meet.

Google plans to make the APIs and SDK available early next year.

Before the end of the year, users will have the ability to create reusable smart canvas components called building blocks, which are only available in Docs. For example, the data blocks could include a to-do list as an option under a project tracker template created by a workspace admin.

This year, Google plans to let people control their Slides presentations from Meet. Also, a speaker spotlight feature in Slides embeds the presenter’s video frame along with its content in a presentation. Google will roll out this feature in a private preview.

Features planned for Chat this year include custom emojis and inline threading, which will allow people to side chat with others during a group chat. Company executives or managers will be able to use a separate chat channel to broadcast company-wide announcements early next year.

Google also beefed up security in chat this week with the introduction of a data loss prevention feature. Workspace admins can create custom policies that prevent people from sharing sensitive information. The feature is already available in other workspace apps.

Other new security features include client-side encryption in Gmail and Google Calendar. The feature provides access control to meet data sovereignty and compliance requirements.

Google will make the feature available to organizations with an Enterprise Plus, Education Plus, or Education Standard license by the end of the year. Data encryption is already available in other workspace apps.

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