what distinguishes Gmail for businesses from previous competition in business hosted email niche?

I am guessing that there were companies offering business emails with personalized domains before Google went into the space. Those companies may even have done it for less than $50 per seat for a business of 51+ people, especially in poorer countries.

So what distinguishes the Gmail offering here? Is their javascript UI so much cooler than the competition’s? Or are they just the first ones to win the marketing challenge of convincing lots of businesses to switch to hosted email?

MS Live is in heavy competition with Google Business Apps right now. It’s the ability to get away from Office, not just email. MS is naturally worried about that.

So there’s that appeal. Another is the stability and scalability of a company like Google or MS, nobody is worried about them going out of business soon.

The marketing issue is a big one too.

I get about 100 emails per day, and if you’ve ever tried to search through your mail with Outlook you’ll know how frustratingly slow and crappy that is. I run my private life on the concept that I can email anything to my gmail account and be able to find it within a matter of seconds from my smartphone. I would love to have that capability with my work email.

I’m not sure what makes yahoo’s mail search seem so inadequate by comparison, or if gmail’s search dominance is anything more than my own prejudice at this point, but that’s what I’d look at.

are you saying that no business hosted email provider before Google has ever bothered providing a decent search the emails feature for the webmail inbox?

follow-up question - are you basically telling me that Outlook is really inconvenient for email searches, millions of people who are also paying customers are stuck with it, and nobody does anything? I mean, Outlook supports 3rd party plugins, so it’s not like nobody could try building better interfaces for the purpose.

Err, are there any other major drawbacks to Outlook that people are stuck with?

I’ve never seen better search performance than with Gmail. It makes sense, since 1) Google is known for search, 2) Google is also known for redefining the art of high performance server farms. When I run a search in Outlook my own pithy computer is pulling data back from an Exchange server and slowly parsing through it. It’s terrible. When I search Gmail, any number of Google’s servers are crunching through my data stores.

Now, doing a text search on email is a rather trivial task, and I’m sure it wouldn’t take a whole lot to match or best Google’s performance. But I know Google does it, and does it well, and it would probably affect my purchasing decisions (were I in a position to be buying Google apps).

On the other hand, Outlook does a lot of stuff, and it does most of it pretty well, so if search isn’t your priority, then you wouldn’t have much incentive to switch.

yeah, obviously I understand the bit about Outlook being useful and about it being “fact on the ground” for lots of people. But, as I am pointing out, 3rd parties can make extensions and improvements on Outlook if they so wish (if they find paying customers, more likely). So if there are lots of people out there suffering the pain of slow searching, maybe that constitutes a market for a solution that will search through your Outlook inbox about as fast as we see in Gmail. Similarly, if there are other widespread pain issues in Outlook, that too could constitute market for improvements.

FYI, I’m running Outlook 2007 (as part of Office 2007) and also have Windows Search 4.0 installed on the system. It indexes my mailbox so that searches are very fast.

I don’t think a plugin could compete with Gmail on search speed. Like I said, Gmail is hosted on massive server farms, and that’s a good part of where the speed comes from. Even if someone figured out how to offload the Outlook search to the exchange server (instead of the client), it’d be crunched on a couple of Dells that some network admin got a good deal on. Perhaps improvements could be made, but there’s no way it’d be comparable to Gmail.

But we’re getting off topic. Any hosted email is going to have faster search than Outlook, and it’s only one aspect of email. You asked what made Gmail so special in the hosted email market, and I’m not qualified to answer that as I’ve only used their consumer offerings.

if experiences of steronz and Dewey Finn are so different, is that because Dewey Finn configured his Outlook to store emails on his desktop (where they get indexed) whereas steronz did not and so has to pull them from server every time for search? Or are we looking at something more profound than the suboptimal configuration here?

I’ve worked in the IT departments of several companies where sometimes, for no obvious reason, Outlook would refuse to send or receive mail. All our network connections were fine, and we could surf the web with no problem. But there was something in Outlook that would just not communicate – and then, a few hours later, it would act as if nothing was wrong. This persisted at several companies for several years and several versions of Outlook.

Where I am now, our email is handled by Gmail, which works fine. As long as the web is up and we can surf elsewhere, Gmail works fine too. — Except for one guy who just LOVES Outlook, and he has it set up to get his email that way, and every few months, he calls me to “fix” it because “it isn’t working”. So I spend a few hours playing with it, until it finally starts working all by itself again.

That was my first thought. I absolutely hate storing email locally, because a) I don’t want to deal with backing it up, b) I hop from computer to computer, and c) PSTs tend to get corrupted when they get too big.

Also, I’d be unable to find emails on my phone, which would be a crucial selling point for me.

Yes, but “as long as the web is up and we can surf elsewhere, Gmail works fine” is kind of a big limitation for a lot of people. Does Gmail offer an offline store option?

No, but if that’s a limitation for someone they don’t have to use it. Paying for an Exchange server(s) and administrator and backup system and storage are limitations too. As is having a server failure.

You can download google mail into any client you like (including Outlook). However, it’s kind of annoying. It’s like the difference between Gmail on my android phone and on my iPad. On my phone, the Gmail app caches a certain number of recent emails in case I don’t have a signal. I can still delete/archive emails offline, and when I connect it syncs up and makes all the changes. The iOS mail app will sorta do the same thing, but not nearly as well (no archiving, for example), I lose access to search, and it’s generally a rather unpleasant experience. Consequently, I always stick to either the Gmail website or the Android Mail app.

I don’t think Google has a desktop app similar to the Android Mail app. If they did, it would probably be the best of both worlds. With their push for HTML5 it might not be far off.

that sounds dubious. Gmail supports POP download, so sure you could download it into Outlook, Eudora etc. You can also have it keep stuff on the server even after download. I would imagine it’s the same with Exchange server, it should be possible to download stuff onto your local machine while also keeping it on the server.