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Letter from Google Next ’18

by Craig Roth  |  July 27, 2018  |  Comments Off on Letter from Google Next ’18

Google Next – Google’s cloud conference – took place in San Francisco this week. Production values were high, with lots of slick videos and a clever stage where speakers appeared from within rotating boxes (good for representing Containerization; not a great analogy for out-of-the-box thinking).

But I was there to learn about G Suite, not containers. I was in the minority in that regard, as the attendees and presentations were heavily skewed towards GCP over G Suite. That said, G Suite did get some keynote time. Carol Carpenter was happy to announce 4 million paying businesses on G Suite, which was new since the last conference but had already been announced back in February. They also announced 1.4 million monthly active apps users and over 800 million Drive users. Drive seems to be the more strategic part of G Suite at the moment (which I was told consists of 18 components).

After years of keeping their distance from the content services platform (CSP) market (the new version of enterprise content management [ECM]) Google now seems to be warming up to it. Not that they throw the acronym ECM around or compare themselves to CSP players, but they now want to be considered a “content services” player.

They announced a standalone SKU for Drive (which includes cloud identity, Vault, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides). A major show of intention toward content management is the addition of some nice new metadata capabilities. Metadata is an endlessly promising and useful technology that tends to get bogged down in poor UI and lack of user interest, so I’m very interested to see if Google can crack that nut. Add to that their feature set to date (Vault, DLP, selectable data regions, improved identity management from their Bitium acquisition, AppBridge migration [from another acquisition], security center, mobile device management, simple workflows, team drives, drive file stream, improved sharing controls) and you’re marching right into CSP territory.

The productivity apps got their share of love as well, such as AI-enabled auto-suggested text in Hangouts Chat and Gmail, grammar correction in docs (cleverly described as translating from poor grammar to correct), and voice commands in Hangouts Meet.

All in all, Google Next showcased a great set of enhancements that prove dedication and innovation in the office suites and content services markets. But I didn’t hear much about collaboration – at least when not attached to documents. And I was left wanting some longer term vision and roadmap of how Google gets there. There was a theme of “reimagining work”, but that seemed to mean infrastructure enablers like security controls or enhancements like auto-complete.

I want to see a vision of what work in Google’s future world looks like. There was one short video giving a hint of this. It showed a VPA, auto-creating text with clever adjustment sliders, the ever-present huge glass walls that become screens (the “flying car” of future vision videos), but it seemed disconnected from the material around it that mostly described granular feature improvements.

Where is the new app in the suite that no one else has thought of? Can Google’s vision be unique and work be reimagined when it’s still done in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations? Gmail enhancements are nice, but where’s the email-killer (workstream collaboration or whatever is beyond that)?

For that I’ll have to wait for the next NEXT.

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Category: cloud-office  content-creation  content-services  digital-workplace  google  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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