The new ‘Google Chat’, as scooped by the New York Times (and who says newspapers don’t break anything anymore), at least on face value would appear to be of little significance (click here for screenshot via Inside Google )
After all, Microsoft has had a similiar service built into Hotmail for a long time and nobody has ever really given a stuff.
However, what excites me is the symbolism of what this could mean for the evolution of GMail.
GMail is by far my most-used application. It’s my first Tab in Firefox and it stays there locked all day. I do most of my web searches from GMail. I even suffer its woeful Contacts engine. I also do a hell a lot of websurfing from the RSS feeds it now pitches up to me, as well.
But I want more. The storage and retrieval system in GMail based around archiving, stars, labels and search is easily the most efficient way I’ve ever found of working and organising myself. So much so that I now email myself almost as much as I email other people. If I have an important document I think I’m going to need to access later, I email it to myself. If I have a task that I need to complete I turn it into an email so its see in my Inbox until I action it.
So I want to see GMail evolve so that it essentially becomes a central repository of every item I work with. Mail, RSS feeds, task reminders, documents, etc all feed into GMail and are then routed according to filters, either into my Inbox for actioning or labelled for storage and retrieval. This is not far from how I work at the moment, it’s just that I have to manually email myself all of these items.
When Google can deliver this model, the browser truly becomes the operating system. And GMail becomes your desktop. You’ll find you give up almost all depency on the operating system level. For most of the day, my Firefox browser is the only application I have open (bar my MSN messenger, but with this latest initiative that could be on the way out too) and it’s remarkable how little I find myself needing to hit the Start button anymore.
When Google makes GMail, or whatever it turns into, the centre of a user’s universe suddently the bigger Google picture suddenly snaps into plays. The Google Cube really does become a viable initiative, for example. And sure, you’ll be able to use Writely instead of Google Write, MSN IM instead of Google Chat or any other best of breed app instead of the Google alternative. But, in the end you’ll probably just go with Google because you’ll want GMail to archive everything and tag it or make it available for search.
I have no doubt that whichever email package you decide on, will be the application ecosystem you live in. And I think Google may just have worked that out.