AI tools are coming to Gmail, Google Drive, and Firefox

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If you’ve been avoiding integrating artificial intelligence into your day-to-day life, that’s about to get more challenging.

Google has announced plans to roll out AI “side panels” in its Gmail service, as well as in Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Google Drive that will showcase Gemini. Those panels will assist with your writing, summarize information, and suggest improvements or responses. The rollout has already started for select users and will begin for most on July 8.

At the same time, browser maker Mozilla has announced plans to let users incorporate AI chatbots into the Firefox browser’s sidebar. Rather than allying itself with a single AI company, though, Mozilla plans to let users choose among offerings from ChatGPT, Google Gemini, Hugging Chat (an open-source alternative to ChatGPT), or Le Chat Mistral (from a French AI startup) to summarize packets of information.

To be clear, neither Mozilla nor Google are mandating that users use the AI functionality. And in Mozilla’s case, you can opt not to add it to your browser at all. But the two examples showcase how AI is being merged into functionality for people to interact with on a regular basis and underscore how heavily chatbots are being pushed as a part of people’s lives—such as Apple’s upcoming iOS 18, chatbots in Instagram and SnapChat, and soon, Microsoft’s Copilot on new PCs. (Reality check: ChatGPT was introduced to the world less than two years ago.)

Google, of course is playing catch-up to OpenAI when it comes to chatbots and other AI functionality. Gemini has had a rocky start but is getting an increasing amount of exposure with placement in Google Search.

So the general availability of the tool in some of Alphabet’s more popular web offerings was not entirely unexpected. The side panel, the company says, will use Gemini 1.5 Pro, the “most capable” model of the AI tool, which Google says has more advanced reasoning.

The company says it can be used in Docs to help write and refine content, help brainstorm, and “create content based off of other files.” Slides users can generate custom images and new slides with the tool. Sheets users can track and organize their data and quickly create tables and generate formulas. And the chatbot will mine your Google Drive for quick facts about a project or a deep dive, saving users the need to dig through numerous documents.

In Gmail, Gemini will ask proactive prompts to help you get started and search your email box for you. The tool is also available in the Gmail app and additional mobile features like Contextual Smart Reply (which suggests replies to emails based what’s in the one you receive) and Gmail Q&A (letting you use Gemini to search for the answer to a question, saving you from having to dig through emails) are coming soon.

A Google spokesperson, when asked about potential privacy concerns surrounding the AI and its integration into Gmail and other tools that might contain personal or corporate information, said, “In Workspace, we’ve always held data privacy, confidentiality, and security at the very core of what we do. Generative AI doesn’t change these commitments—it actually reaffirms their importance. Gemini for Workspace customers can rest assured that their interactions with Gemini for Workspace stay private to them.” 

Mozilla says none of the chatbots will be integrated into the browser’s core functions—and, for now, it’s only allowing their use on the Nightly version of the browser, which is the testing and development platform.

“If you want to use AI, we think you should have the freedom to use (or not use) the tools that best suit your needs,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Instead of juggling between tabs or apps for assistance, those who have opted-in will have the option to access their preferred AI service from the Firefox sidebar to summarize information, simplify language, or test their knowledge, all without leaving their current web page.”

Mozilla said it has chosen not to work exclusively with one particular AI chatbot company to give users the ability to select the service that works best for them, and so they can switch to others as the models are improved.

“All of these models are still being developed and improved. None are perfect, and each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses,” the company wrote. “Offering options gives people an opportunity to experiment with many services to find the one that’s most helpful in solving the problem they have. AI is an ingredient that can make your experience better; it doesn’t need to replace the tools you already know and love.”

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