My digital life is all about Google as almost everything I do online is somehow connected to my Gmail and/or Google account. I was not a power e-mail user earlier (maybe because I was not a nerd or a marketer then) until Google came up with their own e-mail service on an April Fool’s day. I still remember my nifty Hotmail inbox with tons of embarrassing e-mails. I’m using Gmail ever since they launched the service, back in 2004 and have switched to many usernames before sticking to the current one which is active since 2005 with over 100,000 archived messages (never had to delete a single message ever).
That’s right, I’m a Microsoft fanboy and love everything about MSFT but I’m (also) struggling to find a reason to use most of their flagship products especially
Hotmail Outlook, Bing, SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Phone etc. And, besides Windows, the Microsoft product I use the most is Windows Media Player (something that everyone loves to hate) and Microsoft Money (your fantastic personal finance management software) which you discontinued in 2009. :(
[quote]So, dear Microsoft, if you can’t convince a fanboy like me to use your products then how do you expect others to use the same?[/quote]
Okay, as I said, even as a Microsoft fanatic I’m forced to stick with most of Google’s products and I really like “iEverything”. Still, I want you to crush Google and Apple but not like the way you crushed Netscape or Real Player (but by offering better quality products as we, the consumers, love competition).
And having said that, I must say that Google is my preferred search engine, Chrome is my preferred web browser (was IE until few months back), and Gmail is my primary e-mail service.
Why? Just because I find Google much more useful than its rivals. And, Microsoft, you’re not giving what I want in your products. So, I have no option but to agglomerate with your rivals when it comes to online services – luckily my Operating System remains Windows and always will be as it has never disappointed (at least) me.
I remember that, my relationship with Google became stronger (with over 57,000 unique Google searches since 2007) ever since they released Gmail. Before that, I used to visit mostly Microsoft, MSN, and Yahoo! websites.
What Gmail Had When It Was Released Which Hotmail Didn’t
[quote]Gmail is an experiment in a new kind of webmail, built on the idea that you should never have to delete mail and you should always be able to find the message you want.[/quote]
When Gmail was released the key features that distinguished it from their rivals were – Google Search (with advanced features), 1 GB Storage, Conversation View, Labels, Archive feature, Auto-refresh, Auto-address Completion, Powerful Mail & Spam Filter, No Banner Ads, and a Super Fast Dynamic Interface (thanks to AJAX).
I believe that the real backbone of Gmail is its powerful search engine as Google said “Search, don’t sort“. With Gmail Search I didn’t have to sort the mails as the Search function was powerful enough to find the exact mail which I want no matter, when it was sent or received.
Gmail came with 1 GB of free storage space (compared to Hotmail’s 2 MB inbox at that time) which was 500 times more space than what Hotmail offered at that time.
Another unique feature were “conversation view“. Unlike other webmail services Gmail grouped all the mails and its replies as a single conversation so that I was able to view all the replies to a mail at once.
Gmail’s approach to e-mail folders was entirely different. Instead of folders they introduced “Labels” and “Archive” (but I bet most of the users still don’t use those features). The best way to explain Archives and Labels is to know the fact that Gmail has only one folder, call it the ‘All Mail’, the rest can be considered as labels (kind of tags in blogs).
Gmail have powerful filters and almost all simple or advanced search instance can be transformed into a “filter“. Filters with Labels can do magic as it makes organizing messages much, much, much easier.
And yeah, there were no pop-up ads or ugly untargeted banner ads.
That’s not all, Google introduced more features to Gmail – Even More Storage Space (10 GB), Built-in Chat (Instant Message, Voice, Video), Group Chat, SMS, Phone, Multiple Inboxes, Offline Access, IMAP, POP3, Undo Send, Security (HTTPS encryption & Remote Sign Out, 2-step verification), Templates (known as Canned Responses), Tight Integration with Google Drive, Docs & Tasks and several other useful Gmail lab features. Now, show me a reason to switch back to Windows Live Mail or Hotmail or Outlook or whatever you call it.
Why Gmail Is My E-mail Hub Now
Gmail introduced POP facility later in 2004 and we were able to send mails from our other e-mail account using Gmail. But it showed an annoying “On behalf of” text to the recipient which was a privacy concern and showed lack of professionalism. For example, if the e-mail was sent from email@example.com then it will show to recipient as “From firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of email@example.com”. But later in 2009, Gmail supported SMTP for outgoing mails so that we could send mails from Gmail using a custom SMTP server (instead of Gmail’s).
Now I manage all the e-mail accounts from a single interface and the recipient will never see my Gmail address. Now, this trick when combined with other Gmail features forces me to hang on to Gmail.
Now, What Features Does Hotmail Outlook Have Which Gmail Doesn’t
I would say, not much, but…
a fresh, and cleaner interface than Gmail which is intuitive
the new Hotmail (Outlook.com) is social
you can recover your deleted messages
instant action buttons that saves a lot of time
a single-use code that can be used instead of your password
allows you to create e-mail alias and lets you rename your user id
it can sort the mails in two clicks
I don’t want to switch to Outlook just for the sake of above add-ons as someday Gmail might offer all the above features with a “Google approach”.
The Google Products That Keeps Me Busy…
As you can see Google’s products and services is all about “Cloud, Cloud, and Cloud” and is mostly “FREE” (as they subsidize most of the products with their highly profitable advertising business). I’m pretty sure that Gmail (together with YouTube, Docs, Drive, Chat etc.) helped Google to a great extent in bonding its users with Google.com. How? It’s by tightly integrating Chat, Voice, Docs, Cloud Storage etc. onto Gmail so that users don’t have to exit Google for their other online stuffs that matters.
So even if Bing offered more accurate search results than Google people won’t make it their default search engine as they depend on other Google products. That exactly is the reason why I can’t switch to Microsoft products yet. So, Microsoft, your ‘Pepsi Challenge‘ is not going to help either. Got it?
Now that Google’s web browser (it’s a desktop software, right?) is also a part of “Google Cloud” as it Syncs Apps, Extensions, Auto fills, Bookmarks, Passwords, Settings, etc. automatically with Google account so that once we sign in to Chrome from another computer, we get the exact Chrome settings and other data. And with “Sync tabs” we can access our “open tabs” on other devices. So, dear Internet Explorer, what exactly do you offer? All I like about Internet Explorer is the brand “Internet Explorer” and nothing else.
Again, I was not using any of those cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box, Amazon, SkyDrive etc. but I switched to Microsoft SkyDrive when you released a desktop client for SkyDrive. But wait, the very next day Google launched Google Drive and I had no option but to switch to GDrive as it was deeply integrated with Gmail. The storage space was only 5 GB for Google Drive when compared to the 25 GB of SkyDrive (for old users) but I was one of those lucky persons to get additional 20 GB space in Gmail for a mere $5/year (a plan which they discontinued after Google Drive’s launch) which now costs around $30/year.
Gmail Finally Surpassed Hotmail… Yes, Seriously. But How?
As you probably know, Gmail now has over 450 million users and has surpassed both Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail to become the world’s largest e-mail service. But I wonder how many of them are active Gmail users as now you need a Gmail account to use any of those Google’s products and services that requires a registration (earlier you could use any e-mail address to sign up for a Google account). So maybe a good percentage of those people signed up for Gmail only to create a – YouTube, AdSense, AdWords, or a Blogger account as they all require a Gmail account.
Now, What Features Do I Want To See If You Want Me To Switch Back?
– Ask me!
a Microsoft turned Google user (but hopes to switch back… if you deliver what I want)
Image Credits: Free Digital Photos