Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Open letter to Google: Make more money from Gmail!

by Charles Pooter

Google have just added a chat facility to their Gmail/Googlemail service. This allows you to chat to other Gmail users using the web interface without downloading a separate program. It can also archive all your chats alongside your email. This is a another improvement to what is, in my opinion, already the best available email client. I love Gmail. I wish I could use it for my work email, which got me thinking...

Dear Google,

Here's how you can make much more money out of Gmail and annoy Bill in the process:
  1. Add calendaring, "to do" lists, etc. to Gmail. Make sure the interface is excellent (which you have already achieved with email).
  2. Add delegation: Let users allow other Gmail users to have access to their email, calendars, etc. For example johnsmith@gmail.com can allow simonjones@gmail.com to add appointments to his calendar and kirstymcdonald@gmail.com can allow siobhanoreilly@gmail.com to send emails on her behalf.
  3. Build-in mobile syncronisation and make it foolproof: Make Gmail work seamlessly with Windows Mobile and its competitor platforms.

Once these three steps have been completed, you can start to make the money:

Take Microsoft Exchange head-on.

Allow us to dump Exchange. Exchange is great, but Gmail could be better, especially if you host it all for us. Sell the service to companies and other organisations. Allow companies to use Gmail as their email client and server. Allow us to use Gmail with our work email addresses and our existing corporate user names and passwords.

Here's how it could work: A company decides to dump Exchange and use Gmail for their email. They purchase a Gmail license for 1000 users. You charge them $5 a user per year per gigabyte (this could be less for charities, universities, etc). You could charge them more for an ad-free service. They set their MX records to point at your servers rather than their own. You give them a plugin for Active Directory (or whichever directory service they use), so that whenever they create a new user account a Gmail account is also automatically created. When johnsmith@somecompany.com logs into Gmail, instead of checking your own database for his account, you redirect the authentication to the company's directory service (alternatively you could use directory syncronisation).

This service would sell like hotcakes. I would certainly advise my organisation to dump its Exchange plans and go with Gmail Enterprise (as I call it). As well as the company having the best available email interface for its users, it could dump all its Exchange severs and associated SANS, tape libraries, etc. It could probably also re-deploy quite a few staff as well. Email is boring. You can do it in the optimum way, so why does every company in the world have to replicate the effort you've already made? Gmail Enterprise would work with the users' existing corporate user names and passwords. Email and instant messages would be archived and searchable, which as well as being extremely useful for users, would remove a big headache for companies worried about data retention legislation. Delegation would work just as in Exchange with the added advantage that it could work across companies. If two companies need to collaborate on a project and you need someone in another company to be able to view your calendar, no problem.

Then beat SharePoint

After you've beaten Exchange, use the same interface and authentication system to do the same to SharePoint: A Gmail-like, Google searchable, document repository and collaboration service using existing corporate user names and passwords, where cross-company collaboration is easy, with precise but simple access control. Money in the bank.

By the way, if you like these ideas and have any positions available, I can be contacted at Charles.Pooter@gmail.com