Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Taking Gmail to task

Ironically I just got back from picking up some milk from the local servo (that’s a gas station for non-Aussies) when I read the news that Google had finally added tasks to Gmail.

I used to be absolutely hanging out for this feature. But now, my response is basically ‘meh’.

In fact, I’m kinda sad because it means Google won’t be acquiring little Aussie start-up Remember the Milk.

This doesn’t surprise me. I asked a senior Google body about a year ago if they had ever had the  ‘let’s become better friends’ conversations with the RTM folk and he suggested they had but this was more likely the kind of stuff that would be developed in-house.

I think the problem with the approach Gmail has taken to tasks, is that is has been implemented as a feature of Gmail. Any one who has actually set themselves to properly using a task list, knows you can’t do it by halves. You have to commit to your task list, which is the one thing RTM has realised.

Which means, you log into a dedicated website when you really want to get on top of it. Which means you log a task if your on the road via your iPhone or Blackberry. Which means you convert a mail to a task, when needed. Which means you can see all your tasks as you digest your upcoming calendar. RTM has made it a mission to embed its task management software in as many places as a user can wish to imagine.

The reality is 90 per cent of people who use computer-based tasks lists don’t stick it out. Also, your desktop sidebar is a far better place for your tasks as its in front of you no matter what applications your using.  And those remaining people who really are task freaks, will soon hanker for far more than Google is currently offering.

Google should have bought Remember the Milk and made tasks an application in itself that integrated into all of its other properties.

So what next for Remember the Milk. Some are calling it a shot duck. But I’ve long-felt it has needed to keep expanding itself out and evolve into a really simple Web 2.0 project tool. Keep expanding up the food chain as that’s where the money is, anyway.

I’ve always been stunned at the amount of companies who don’t implement a company wide task/project system. I will admit its a challenge because to work it really needs to be tightly integrated with your workflow processes and preferably your other apps. I think there would be a great market for RTM to use the skills it has developed in integrating its solution to try and task-enable other web apps who don’t want the bother of having to re-build the world. We’re about to launch a Workflow module with task management we’ve been building for a while now. I would much preferred to have white-labelled RTM.

P.S. Two and a half years ago I wrote a post GMail: The one app to rule them all that made it to #2 on Digg. Its looking kinda prophetic now!

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

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