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What if Gmail and Google Calendar were built for people, not just businesses

Gmail and Google Calendar are enterprise apps first and foremost. They are developed by the Google Workspace team, which is part of Google Cloud, and target business customers to compete against Microsoft.

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with that priority, which generates revenue, but Google is missing a big opportunity by doing only that. Namely, a Gmail, Calendar, and Keep that have relentless consumer focus could create an indispensable personal experience that’s almost assistant-like in usefulness, and would thrive with generative AI.

Everybody needs a calendar app for their personal and school/work life, while email is how formal communication and important information (e.g., bills) gets transmitted.

Gmail and Calendar today have the basic synergies in place, like how flight and hotel confirmations automatically generate calendar events that link back to the email. That functionality is table stakes and has been there for years.

The last time Gmail added a strictly user-facing feature that had no enterprise overlap was upgraded package tracking last November. There is Help me write, but that’s mostly a work time saver that also happens to have personal implications, like Smart Reply. The same can be said of the calendar scheduling tool and translations on mobile. At the very least, I feel that more consumer-focused teams would have rolled out something like built-in translate and other quality of life improvements much faster.

To find something else consumer-facing, you have to go back to Inbox by Gmail where there was a Bundles feature that grouped together similar emails to view (and archive) en masse and was more specific than today’s four categories. Other features highlighted articles in newsletters, letting you save them to read later, and allowed for pinned emails.

Overall, Inbox was good at summarizing information in emails and presenting it in a more glanceable manner. It was a consumer app rather than an enterprise one. If Google attempted an app like this today – or never shut down Inbox at all – I think there’d be a bigger focus on making email more personal and digestible.

If anything, that type of curation is something that would excel with generative AI. Imagine getting a readout of what’s important in your personal/adult life based on emails, upcoming calendar events, and related to-dos.

To me, adding assistance directly to Gmail, Calendar, Tasks, and Keep would feel more natural than even Google Now. It’s hard to get people to open a new feed, as seen with Assistant Snapshot, but putting assistance directly in the apps people already use would be natural. (It would have the benefit of working on iOS and the web as well.) It might not be well-liked by everyone, but I think it would be better received than integrating Chat, Meet, and Spaces into Gmail outside of work accounts.

In terms of how we get here, a team – maybe outside of the Workspace organization – needs to be empowered to add consumer-focused features to these apps.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: