Gmail, Part Deux: Strategy

So what might GMail's strategy be? I listened to a wonderful Podcast with Georges Harik all about GMail and some of the thinking about it. If you are interested in GMail, it's a worthwhile listen.

I noticed that Georges kept referring to GMail as providing great email and communications capabilities. An interesting and fine distinction to be stressing, although the interviewer never referred to it.

Another interesting strategic point that was covered was the question of providing free POP and SMTP, which is certainly counterintuitive if you believe that GMail is being made to make money, and the only way they make money is via ads. For example, the way I am using GMail, through Outlook, I never see the ads.

Something that was said also made me think about GMail as more than a consumer service. Georges seemed to focus totally on consumers, but at various points left me thinking about what was not said...

Here are some speculations about Google's strategic intent with GMail:
  • I doubt that they will decide to start charging for the 1Gig of storage. That would be too close to being 'Evil'
  • What if the longer term plan is to create a for-pay commercial offering. Going to global corporations like General Electric or Shell and offering to take over their email infrastructure? They could offer value added services for security, auditing, document retention, and many others. It would be worth a lot of dough to those companies.
  • Why the focus on 'communications' in the interview ? It seems to imply a distinct focus beyond simple email. Google might be positioning itself to get into other media. How about getting into IM or VOIP? How about aquiring Skype?
  • For the first time Google is building some lock-in. By being the store for all their users email they make it much more difficult for people to take their business elsewhere. Without that there is no loyalty and the next hot search engine could lure us away.

Of course the truth may be more prosaic - It might be that this is a simple advertising revenue play - which might have astronomical potential.
Posted on December 23, 2004 and filed under Technology.