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Google to allow BYO encryption keys in Workspaces, adds overdue admin tools to Meet.

Google is making a belated attempt to grab a larger slice of the enterprise collaboration market with the introduction of long-overdue moderator controls in Google Meet like the ability to mute and unmute participants — and the introduction of client-side encryption via key access partners Flowcrypt, Futurex, Thales, or Virtru.

While the company’s promotion of some of the changes (“Google Workspace will evolve Rooms to become Spaces”! drew predictable ridicule and promises of a “streamlined and flexible user interface” some scepticism given Google’s poor record on UI, its shift on encryption pointed to a serious bid for larger enterprise customers.

Those wanting to build/integrate their own encryption key services will need to wait, but BYOK is coming in 2021: Google Workspace product managers Karthik Lakshminarayana and Erika Trautman said they “will be publishing the key access service API specifications that can be used with Client-side encryption later this year.”

See also: Companies could save billions by ditching ‘Hotel California’ cloud for own infrastructure: Andreessen Horowitz

(The company rolled out Airbus as a customer, with Andrew Plunkett, Head of Digital Workplace, Airbus quoted as saying the company was “already using Google Workspace Client-side encryption to protect our most critical company data. The ability to fully control our own encryption keys while benefiting from Google’s best-in-class productivity tools has been an essential enabler of our digital transformation.”)

Well over a year into the pandemic and post a wholesale cultural shift to remote work, it seems curious that Google is only now promising that “next month” it will introduce key moderation controls for hosts of Google Meet meetings, “giving them the ability to  prevent the use of in-meeting chat and prohibit presenting during meetings” along with further admin controls, but that was among June 14’s promises.

Google also promised a broader shift in how Workspaces (Google’s bundles of collaboration tools including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet) works, with the sometimes slightly disjointed set of tools to be more tightly integrated, with what sounded like a more Slack-like user experience.

“Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and launch a streamlined and flexible user interface that helps teams and individuals stay on top of everything that’s important. Powered by new features like in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, expressive reactions, and a collapsible view, Spaces will seamlessly integrate with files and tasks” promised Google VP Javier Soltero.

Enterprise admins can turn on Google Chat in Gmail to start using Rooms (group conversations with file sharing in Chat) today, ensuring a “seamless path to Spaces when it becomes available” Soltero said.

The company doesn’t publish enterprise price plans (only Business Plus, which can stretch to a maximum of 300 users at £13.80/seat per month) — you’ll need to contact sales — but a discussions on Reddit and other such forums suggest it’s competitively priced compared to rivals.

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