Editor's take: As we enter the unofficial start of the fall season, with back-to-school and for many, back-to-office, post-Labor Day weekend, it seems fitting to be thinking about productivity software. I'm convinced it's the application that's going to not only bring generative AI back to the mainstream news cycle, but also cement GenAI's role in the minds of many as something that's going to be profoundly impactful.
Up until now, even with the early popularity of applications like ChatGPT, most of the experimentation and early efforts with GenAI have been done by those with a relatively strong technical bent. The vast majority of people still haven't used any type of GenAI tool or capability.
This is bound to change when mainstream GenAI-powered productivity suites from Google and Microsoft start to enter general availability and usage – it is then that regular people will begin to personally experience what GenAI can do. When this happens, Gartner's recent comments about how GenAI is already entering the trough of disillusionment phase of its infamous technology adoption model are going to sound ridiculously out of date. Only after the widespread usage starts will we even begin to climb the curve towards the hype cycle.
Google kicked things off last week with the announcement of Duet AI for Workspace. The impressive 3 billion user base of Workspace users (10 million paying customers) now have access to many features first demonstrated last spring as well as new capabilities that just debuted last week.
Pricing for the new Duet AI for Workspace is $30 per user per month – matching what Microsoft said they would be charging for the GenAI-powered Office's Copilot AI – but Google is also offering a free 30-day trial for anyone who wants to try the service.
Duet AI for Workspace includes the ability to generate text or images in Gmail and Docs, organize data in Sheets, and build new images and presentation material in Slides. The company is also adding features to Meet and Chat. Meet includes video enhancements, called Studio Look, to improve the visual quality of your webcam. The enhanced Meet can also automatically take notes from a meeting, create quick summaries and video snippets, do real-time translations in 18 different languages, and even attend a meeting on your behalf to allow you to make a point even if you can't attend.
The enhanced Meet can also automatically take notes from a meeting, create quick summaries and video snippets, do real-time translations in 18 different languages, and even attend a meeting on your behalf to allow you to make a point even if you can't attend.
The updated Google Chat includes summarization capabilities for any chats or documents shared in a chat as well as the ability to quickly start an audio "huddle" call with all participants in a current chat. Chat features a new UI and the ability to chat with the AI engine in a digital assistant-like fashion.
All told, it's a comprehensive start and hints at more advanced capabilities to come, including integration with a growing range of partner applications. What's particularly interesting is that Duet AI for Workspace is starting to show signs of a true digital assistant-type experience with Google hinting at forthcoming features that will be able to perform proactive actions on behalf of the user. So, for example, it could start the process of booking a meeting based on the content of a chat or email thread, offer flight suggestions for an upcoming trip on the calendar, and more.
Recent research on GenAI shows that productivity applications are already some of the most used and requested types of activities that organizations are looking for, so it's clear there is a strong appetite for the kinds of tools that Duet AI is bringing to Workspace. Plus, there's also a great deal of interest in digital assistant-type features among IT decision makers planning their companies' GenAI deployments, so we're expecting strong uptake of these new Google offerings.
The only remaining question is how users will start to react to these capabilities. There's likely going to be a great deal of appreciation as people start to realize how much time they can save from the more tedious parts of their job.
At the same time, some will undoubtedly start to notice that a few of the tasks that were once seen as a key part of their work are now being automated in a way that could frighten them about the future viability of their position. This is the dual-edged nature of GenAI and the questions about how the workplace evolves because of it will likely linger for some time to come.
Bob O'Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech