Report: Google is about to take on Slack and Teams with a new 'unified' communication app

The company is notorious for trying — and failing — to bring its messaging and productivity suite together. Will this time be different?

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Google is working on an initiative to streamline its suite of mobile and browser-based apps for businesses into a singular experience, according to The Information. The app would combine Gmail, Drive, Hangouts Meet, and Hangouts Chat all in one interface, and would provide easier hooks into products like Google Calendar. Google is notorious for its confusing collection of communication apps, from Hangouts Classic to Hangouts Meet and Duo, as well as others that have been killed off (Wave: never forget), and has stumbled with integration before.

Competition is good, obviously — The company’s unification is clearly designed to push back against Microsoft's growth of its Teams product with larger, more established companies. Additionally, Slack has become the de facto method of realtime collaboration and communication among startups. Slack has made integrations with Google products simple while pushing users away from traditional chat like Hangouts, while Microsoft has gone through a renaissance of sorts, releasing a bevy of redesigned communications apps, like Outlook, to positive reviews.

The details — The app is expected to be exclusive to G Suite, meaning it would primarily be available to enterprise businesses using Google’s apps rather than the general public. It’s intended to help Google better compete against increasing competition from Microsoft, which through its Teams product has combined a suite of functions including workplace chat and VoIP calling into one app. Teams has been growing quickly in part because it's included with Office 365. Microsoft says it has 20 million monthly active users, more than its main rival Slack (although there’s some debate about whether Microsoft’s users are truly active).

It’s unclear exactly how smashing a bunch of separate apps into one would be beneficial, but The Information posits the move would make it easier for IT managers to manage the apps used by their employees because they’d have fewer to monitor. Google already provides a dashboard for admins to manage teams through its G Suite apps console, but this new effort will apparently take a more holistic approach.

Owning big business — Developing software that large companies embrace is crucial because businesses, of course, are willing to pay handsomely for a managed offering, and are often unwilling to switch platforms once settled in. It also offers an inroad to selling cloud server space, one of Google's fastest growing businesses.

Besides the unified enterprise app, Google also recently announced it’s killing off App Maker, a drag-and-drop tool for G Suite businesses to create custom internal apps. These apps could do things like host internal forum discussions or provide employees with easy to use forms for submitting information to a database. The company recently acquired a company called App Sheet that does largely the same thing, however.