Google takes aim at Microsoft 365 with small but important update

Google is taking the fight to Microsoft with an update for Workspace that introduces new synergies between its productivity and collaboration apps.

As detailed in a new blog post, Google Workspace users will soon be able to launch into various applications easily from within messaging platform Chat.

“While you’re having a conversation in Google Chat, you can now more easily take actions in other Google Workspace products. The options vary by context, and can include Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Photos and Calendar,” explained Google.

“This will make it easier to take action across Google Workspace and enable a faster and more seamless workflow.”

The update will begin to take effect for Android and desktop users over the next couple of weeks, but won’t land on iOS until the new year.

Google Workspace update

Since the birth of G Suite in 2006, Google has competed directly with Microsoft in the office software space, going up against the famous Microsoft 365 suite, which houses the likes of Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.

One of the defining features of Microsoft’s offering is tight integration between apps and services, extending all the way out to the Windows operating system on which most business devices run. And although Google stole the march on Microsoft when it came to the cloud-based model, individual G Suite apps have historically felt much more isolated.

When Google rebranded its productivity suite as Workspace last year, however, the company announced it would make a concerted effort to create a more “deeply integrated user experience”, by improving the level of interoperability between its various productivity apps.

The latest Workspace update takes steps towards achieving this goal, but is just one of a number of improvements Google has made in recent months where interoperability is concerned.

In June, for example, the company announced an integration between Chat and Calendar, which helps users connect quickly with co-workers ahead of or after an upcoming meeting. This was later followed by a separate integration that allows users to share documents and messages with meeting attendees from within the calendar marker.

At its annual Cloud Next event, meanwhile, Google announced it will invest heavily in the Workspace Marketplace, the third-party app library that services its product suite. The goal is to create ways to expand the functionality of its services and cut the number of apps workers are required to juggle at once.

While these updates might appear insignificant in isolation, each contributes to the goal of stitching together Google Workspace in a way that will make the user experience feel less disjointed and more coherent.

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Facebook, Instagram launch tools to help small businesses survive the pandemic

In a bid to help small businesses stay afloat during this turbulent time, Facebook and Instagram have launched a handful of new features that allow users to promote and support their favorites.

A digital gift card feature allows businesses to promote their gift cards directly through their Facebook Pages and News Feeds, and on Instagram by adding a sticker to their Stories or a button to their profile page.

Users, meanwhile, will be able to search for gift cards issued by local businesses – including hairdressers, restaurants, bookshops, grocery stores and more – and make purchases directly through either platform.

Pandemic support measures

The social media giants have doubled down on existing support extended to small businesses, such as the $ 100m Small Business Grants program, which will see Facebook provide cash support and ad credits to struggling firms.

Both platforms have now expanded their fundraising tools to allow businesses to create campaigns on Facebook to solicit donations from loyal customers and add a “Donate” button to Instagram Stories and profile pages.

Instagram has also rolled out a new “Support Small Business” sticker option, which lets users spotlight their most beloved businesses via their Stories. Mentioning a business directly using the sticker gives the user’s followers a preview of the account and highlights other firms the person has championed.

In an effort to make content published by small businesses more easily discoverable, Facebook has also launched a new feed called ‘Posts from Businesses Near You’ – a single destination from which users can browse the latest posts from local businesses.

“Running a company during Covid-19 is far from ‘business as usual’, and for smaller companies the impact of lockdown has hit hard,” said Steve Hatch, VP Northern Europe at Facebook.

“SMBs are the backbone of the economy, they sit at the heart of our communities and at Facebook they are part of our story as well, so we want to do all we can to support them at this challenging time,” he added.

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