Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Google expands its email offerings

Google has announced the test-release of an important email feature: Off-line access. This may not seem like such a big deal to the average corporate user. After all, we've been using email on the plane for years now, sync-ing up when we get to a network connection. But G-Mail is different. There is nothing on your PC... it's all on the internet. This is the foundation of cloud computing and this release represents a radical strategic exception for Google, which has stake its future on cloud computing.

The bottom line is that Google needed to do this if wants to be a serious player in the corporate market. Consumers will tolerate not being able to read their email when there's no network, but business users will not. "This is a feature we've heard loud and clear the enterprise wants," said Todd Jackson, Gmail's product manager.

But will it be enough to move large corporate customers off of the industry standard, Microsoft Exchange? Will it even be enough to move small companies away from other open source, but more traditionally architected solutions? I'm not so sure.

Email is the mission critical application of modern business. You can survive having your A/P system down for a day. But take away email and you'll see everyone from the CEO to the receptionist gathering torches and pitchforks on their way to the data center. There are very good reasons why Exchange has earned its place as the market leader:

  • It's highly reliable
  • Tolerant of administrator and user mistakes, and
  • Very straightforward when it comes to recovery.

Who in their right mind would want to mess with that? This is the hill that Google is trying to climb. And, given the current climate, I suspect that very few decision makers will risk making that kind of change.

For more information: A blog post on CNet

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