Google confirms AI test on Gmail, Docs “in the coming weeks” as race with Microsoft continues

March 16, 2023

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Google said it would test AI in Gmail and Google Docs in the coming weeks with a limited number of testers. The test will involve new AI-powered writing features for the said apps that will allow the generation of different compositions with just simple prompts from users. Interestingly, Google said the power of generative AI would also arrive in other Workspace apps — a sign of its determination to counter Microsoft’s series of AI initiatives across its products.

Microsoft’s AI initiatives put Bing and Edge in the spotlight, which reportedly caused Google to declare “code red.” To make things worse, the software giant officially announced the integration of AI into its business apps last week. In its so-called Dynamics 365 Copilot, Microsoft introduced automation across different apps, including Dynamics 365 Sales, Viva Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Dynamics 365 Marketing, Dynamics 365 Business Central, and Microsoft Supply Chain Center. This put more pressure on Google, but it is ready to fight now.

This Tuesday, the search titan said it would also put AI into its different apps, including Slides, Sheets, Meet, and Chat. However, just like Bard, this AI initiative will start with a test with Google Docs and Gmail. In its recent announcement, the company shared how generative AI would work in the two apps.

“In Gmail and Google Docs, you can simply type in a topic you’d like to write about, and a draft will be instantly generated for you,” wrote Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian. “So if you’re a manager onboarding a new employee, Workspace saves you the time and effort involved in writing that first welcome email. From there, you can elaborate upon or abbreviate the message or adjust the tone to be more playful or professional — all in just a few clicks.”

According to Google, other AI experiences will be tested throughout the year before the features go public, giving users the following capabilities:

  • draft, reply, summarize, and prioritize your Gmail
  • brainstorm, proofread, write, and rewrite in Docs
  • bring your creative vision to life with auto-generated images, audio, and video in Slides
  • go from raw data to insights and analysis via auto completion, formula generation, and contextual categorization in Sheets
  • generate new backgrounds and capture notes in Meet
  • enable workflows for getting things done in Chat

Google’s plan for this AI integration looks promising. As shown in its published demo, users seemingly could use natural language in their commands, prompting the AI to perform various tasks. Some include summarizing long email conversations, taking important notes in meetings, composing responses and personalized messages per person, creating presentations, and even generating images. However, as Google noted, the works the generative AI would produce are just a “first version” of a “draft.” In line with that, users can choose to refine or “rewrite” the drafts using the other AI-customization features Google will include in the apps, such as Gmail’s “I’m feeling lucky” option for a more playful tone. Ultimately, given these AI capabilities will be added to apps widely used by professionals and businesses, Google underscored the undeniable fact about AI and its flaws.

“AI is no replacement for the ingenuity, creativity, and smarts of real people,” noted Johanna Voolich Wright, VP of Product Management of Google Workspace. “Sometimes the AI gets things wrong, sometimes it delights you with something offbeat, and oftentimes it requires guidance.”

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