Eugen Tarnow August 4 2011 02:20:46 PMRecent news: Harvard chose Google to be its primary email provider.
I see two concerns. First, assuming the worst, does Google have any way of accessing all the valuable intellectual property that Harvard produces? If Google can access it, then that means the Chinese can too. Second, what does this mean for enterprise email in general? After all, this move was made in an environment where over half of the Harvard’s students said they preferred Gmail to the alternatives. Countless students at other school’s that use non-Google providers have that email forwarded to Gmail anyway. The youth are the future, and if current college students want Gmail, then it seems they may also want it when they’re members of the corporate world.
It’s clear what Google is doing. Google has built an image of being cool and cutting edge that appeals to younger generations, which they hope will pay off when those generations are in charge. Apple tried something similar in the pre-iPod era, saturating schools with Macintosh computers. In spite of its other successes, Apple never did make that indent in the corporate market. Google has a real chance of becoming a dominant player in corporate email, however, and even enterprise collaboration in general with applications like Google Docs.
Whether what’s good for Google is good for the world, I don’t know. I do know that the company’s unofficial slogan is “Don’t Be Evil,” but I also know that money makes the world go round. I am more interested in what IBM could do so Lotus Notes still seems relevant and remains a viable option, even for people who’ve only really been exposed to Gmail and other Google collaboration tools. Marketing should be a top priority for IBM in the next few years but the right kind of marketing.
IBM needs to let companies and the population in general know that no matter how fancy all of Google’s different features get, nothing can compare to the versatility of Lotus Notes. Google’s offerings may be sleek, but due to their free web-based origins, they will always lack the customizability and capabilities of something like Lotus Notes that is made with enterprises in mind. Google also cannot hope to have the same kind of product-based support from business partners that IBM has. IBM should say the truth, which is that Gmail and related Google applications are too limited for clients with complex needs.
Nothing’s set in stone. It will be the decisions, priorities, and ultimately actions of individual companies that determine future enterprise-email market shares. There is no doubt, however, that some will have many regrets in the next few years.
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