Google is readying an enterprise version of its Inbox email in what appears to be a response to strong interest in the application among business users.
Starting next month, Google will launch an early-adopter program for Google Apps customers interested in Inbox. The goal of the effort is to try and understand business needs, challenges and use cases for Inbox, Google's director of product management for Inbox, Alex Gawley announced in a blog post Feb. 23.
"Even before the first invitations went out to use Inbox for your own email, Googlers have been using it to get more done at work," Gawley said.
"Whether it's snoozing the expense report notification until after the big presentation, or adding a reminder to schedule lunch with a favorite client, Inbox helps put email on your terms," he said.
Gawley urged companies interested in participating in the early adopter program to contact Google at email@example.com.
Because Google plans on working very closely with each company that participates in the program, not everyone that wants to take part in the program will be able to do so immediately. "But the program will continue to expand over the coming months," Gawley said.
A review of the more than 300 comments posted on the blog in response to the announcement suggests that many business users are impatient to get their hands on Inbox.
"I never understood why paying Google customers had to wait so much longer after the free users, even for betas," a user identified as Andrew Cathrow wrote. "Anyway, applied now and crossing fingers."
"I need this for work," commenter Jeff Ferrell wrote. "Wish I could somehow magically make it work for my corporate email."
Google announced Inbox last October and has been making the application available to users on a limited-invitation-only basis since then. The company has been careful about positioning Inbox as a complement to Gmail and not as its replacement.
The new email client packs several features that are designed to make it easier for users to read, organize and store their emails more efficiently, according to Google. Other features include Bundles, a way to organize emails by categories, such as bank statements and purchase receipts, and Highlights, a way to view key information in an email—such as flight timings—without having to open it. Also, Reminders, Assists and Snooze are designed to allow Inbox users to put off viewing an email temporarily, set reminders and prioritize them in other ways.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president at Google, has described Inbox as Google's biggest rethink of email since Gmail.
Even before this week's announcement of the early adopter program, Google professed its interest in delivering a version of Inbox for Google Apps users. The company has previously noted that it needs time to work on several issues to get the app ready for business use.
"Since we launched five months ago, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we've received is that Google Apps customers want access to Inbox at work," Gawley said.
"That's why we're excited to kick off the next phase of our journey: collaborating with you to bring Inbox to work."
In the meantime, Gmail continues to be one of the most popular email clients in use. Email testing and analysis firm Litmus Labs recently had Gmail with a 17 percent market share in the second spot behind Apple's native iPhone, which held a 27 percent share. The numbers are based on what Litmus described as 1.05 billion "email opens" in January.