BYO Google account: Google unveils a free version of Workspace for users at work

With its new offering -- which doesn't include email -- Google is appealing to the billions of consumers who use Google productivity tools in their personal lives and want to bypass their workplace's legacy tech.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Google on Thursday is rolling out Workspace Essentials Starter -- a free version of its productivity suite that individuals can bring to work. The new offering is designed for the billions of consumers who use Google productivity tools in their personal lives and want to bypass their workplace's legacy tech. 

Workspace Essentials Starter gives users access to popular Google tools like Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Meet, but it does not include access to a Gmail account. Instead, a user signs up with their existing work email address. Once their account is verified, they can immediately start using the Essentials suite and invite others to collaborate with them. 

Users can work with existing tools without file conversions. They can store, share, and edit more than 100 file types, including Microsoft Office documents and PDFs. Essentials Starter also provides encrypted and secure access to files. 

The new offering is "coming at a time when employees are stepping back and making decisions around how they want to work and who they want to work for," Kelly Waldher, VP of marketing at Google Workspace, said to ZDNet. "By making this new offering available, we will continue to empower employees to make decisions that's best for them." 

In this case, he continued, that means "adopting a modern collaboration toolset and not having to be stuck on a legacy technology stack that was never designed for this hybrid work environment." 

Like most digital communication and collaboration tools, Google Workspace has benefited from the remote and hybrid work trend that's grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The videoconferencing tool Google Meet has experienced especially strong growth in the past two years, Waldher added. 

As interest in videoconferencing tools spiked over the course of the pandemic, Google made significant investments in Meet. The company gave an overall makeover to its productivity lineup, and in October 2020, it rebranded the set of tools, known as G Suite, as Workspace

Earlier this week during Google's Q4 earnings call, the company reported that revenue growth in Google Workspace was driven by solid growth in both seats and average revenue per seat. The productivity tools contributed to Google Cloud's 45% year-over-year revenue growth. 

Google is still committed to growing Workspace adoption via a "top down" approach, Waldher said, and working with organizations directly. However, the Essentials Starter offering will allow Google to appeal to the three billion people who use Google productivity tools for personal use. The offering, he said, "allows the end user to have a direct say in the toolset they want to use." 

Given the traction Google productivity tools have with individual consumers, Waldher said the majority of Fortune 2000 customers should adopt Workspace Essentials fairly quickly.

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