Ferris, Google Chat About Gmail

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-11-10 Print this article Print

"I think Google wants to provide a rich range of free or almost-free messaging and collaboration services," Ferris said. "I think it wants to persuade businesses of all sizes to migrate away from the dominant mail system used by business, Microsoft Exchange."

Indeed, the evolution of Gmail, supported by Google's launch of Gmail Labs June 5 as a sandbox for new utilities, and Ferris' comments underscore the idea of the evolution of Gmail as an application that is getting increasingly enterprise-friendly.

These developments must be part of some grand plan to unseat Yahoo and Microsoft as the Web mail application of choice for consumers and businesses, right?

Gmail Product Manager Keith Coleman denied any master strategy to this end, noting that Gmail engineers build the tools and release them internally for employees to test in a process called "dog-fooding." Gmail Labs is essentially Google's move to bring the public into the dog-fooding process. Coleman told eWEEK:

The way that we look at the future of our products is less about having any specific vision for what you should be able to do in the product and is more about solving problems that users have. At Google, we like to solve big problems. We'll talk about these problems internally and wait for people to come up with proposed solutions and then we'll try those solutions. Some will eventually stick and those are the ones that become our new products or change the future or our products.

This is markedly consistent with most of Google's software developments, if you believe in coincidence (wink, wink). But that's his story and he's sticking to it.

What about Gmail development? One would think that stitching all of these tools onto an application after the fact instead of building it from the ground up would be problematic from an integration standpoint.

Wouldn't a new gadget tool mess with Gmail? Coleman said Google's use of and dependence on AJAX technology allows Gmail engineers to bolt on features without running the Gmail ship into the ground.

Whether you believe Coleman or not, the new features indicate that Gmail is becoming more friendly toward businesses. This may be the starting point where Google helps Google Apps become a more credible solution for enterprises.

Analysts such as Gartner's Tom Austin and Burton Group's Guy Creese have repeatedly pointed out that Google Apps is lagging in enterprise readiness because of a lack of certain features or security we've come to associate with enterprise applications. Google has to start changing this somehow.

Thanks to the emergence of social networks, many experts and vendors now recognize e-mail as the hub of users' social and productivity worlds.

If Google is going to continue to battle-test Google Apps for businesses, why not start with Gmail, which has a reported 50 million-plus users?


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