Google has opened up its Gmail platform so it can be tightly integrated with business applications, regardless of platform.

The search engine giant announced that Gmail Add-ons is designed to help people who view their email system as their primary work tool to be able to undertake other work-related tasks, without the need to interrupt their workflow by leaving the Gmail application.

Google is working hard to extend the functionality of its email service into more of a productivity platform. In August it extended its phishing protection to iPhone Gmail users. Similar protections had been given to Android users in May.

Gmail Add-Ons

Google’s decision to launch officially third-party add-ons for Gmail, means that native extensions will integrate services such as Asana, Dialpad, DocuSign, Trello, Wrike and Intuit QuickBooks Invoicing directly into Gmail inboxes.

Developers are able to create add-ons for their apps thanks to the Gmail Add-ons Framework. Additionally, developers will be to write their add-on code once, and it will run natively in Gmail on web and Android right away.

There is no word yet on when Gmail Add-ons will be available for iOS users.

“Rather than toggling between your inbox and other apps, use add-ons to complete actions right from Gmail,” blogged Google. “With Gmail Add-ons, your inbox can contextually surface your go-to app based on messages you receive to help you get things done faster. And because add-ons work the same across web and Android, you only need to install them once to access them on all of your devices.”

It should be noted that Gmail Add-ons have been available in developer preview since March this year, when the ability was revealed at Google’s Cloud Next conference.

Since that time, developers have been working on integrating their apps into Gmail. These Gmail partners includes Asana, which turns communication into tasks that can be tracked, all from the Gmail inbox.

Dialpad on the other hand allows people to message or call colleagues on their device, straight from Gmail.

DocuSign integration is coming soon, and it allows for the signing and executing of contracts, agreements and other documents directly in Gmail.

Other add-ons available for Gmail include Hire, where all information about job candidates can be handled without leaving Gmail.

And Intuit QuickBooks Invoicing allows for the creation and sending of invoices directly in Gmail.

Other add-ons include ProsperWorks (customer data management); RingCentral (communication tool); Smartsheet (email content management); Streak (email thread management); Trello (turns emails into actionable tasks; and finally Wrike (task management).

Enterprise Push

The focus of Gmail Add-ons therefore is clearly enterprise-led, but people with simple consumer access to the G Suite will still be able to make use of the third-party add-ons.

However, the recent updates of Google’s communication and collaboration software shows tha the search engine giant is determined on making a play for enterprise customers, many of which may still be such using on-premise systems, or are currently making use of Microsoft Office as their productivity suite.

Microsoft of course is not likely to take such an encroachment lying down, which is likely why it is pushing the boosted integration and functionality of its own productivity software.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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