This is the beginning of a cautionary tale.
I am an Apple evangelist that loves Android. I really like my iPhone 6, and keen to test Android 5.0 aka Lollipop. I put Chromebooks into the hands of hundreds of students every year. I’m a Google Shareholder. While I prefer Apple’s OS X and iOS “Mail” email client, I feel that, ironically, Google’s Gmail for iOS App looks better on my iPhone than Apple Mail.
Email was created decades ago as a “dumb pipe” where a carrier exists to simply transfer information to-and-from between users without the ability to add services and applications or serve as a “smart” gatekeeper between what the user sees and doesn’t see. Thats called “mediation”, and its a key word. The idea behind email is that it’s an unmediated communications medium. Sending and receiving information. Simple for users. Not profitable for service providers.
This was the issue for AOL, Earthlink (Mindspring), and a host of others, and certainly, Google, with its (current) Gmail. Carriers want to resist becoming dumb pipes because there’s no money in it. A pipe is a faceless commodity, valued only by reliability and speed. In such a market, margins sink to zero or below zero, and it becomes a horrible business to be in.
Google’s new Inbox App is a product by a company that holds a monopoly on Internet advertising (recall all the “evil empire” talk – that Google has squashed because it owns you and how you derive information from the internet). Inbox is an alternative interface to your Gmail account, rather than something that requires starting over with a new account. This is another attempt by the company to mediate your dumb email pipe which drives absolutely no value for Google. Google exists to mediate the unmediated. That’s what it does.They’re not in the business of improving the experience of email with a free product such as Gmail. They’re ultimately in the business of finding more subtle and effective ways to deliver ads.
Repeat: “recall all the ‘evil empire talk’ – that Google has squashed because it owns you and how you derive information from the internet”.
I can appreciate the brilliance of the “invitation” strategy introducing Inbox. It feels exclusionary; but it’s not. It is manipulative. They tried the same shenanigans with Google Wave (see below). I received six invites, and declined all of them, for now. Inbox strikes me as very similar to the new email test AOL (Boy… does that take me back. How many people actually still use AOL?) deployed almost two years ago.
That said, pinning-down the name “Inbox”, was insidiously crafty and well done on Google’s part. The name defines the product.
eMail presents us with a love-hate dilemma. We need it, but the process is time-consuming, and rarely fruitful. eMail “battles” are the worst. Almost as bad as the, “Starbucks Death Dance”, when it comes to networking (by the way… I’m boycotting SBUX because they won’t let me use Apple Pay). I noticed about three years ago that I text and chat (in various forms) with the people that I am most productive with.
The bottom line is that it’s a more radical mediation between the communication you have with other people and with the companies that provide goods, services and content to you.
The positive spin on Inbox is that it brings way more power and intelligence to your email in-box.
The negative spin is that it takes something user-controlled, predictable, clear and linear and takes control away from the user, making email unpredictable, unclear and nonlinear.
I’m sticking with Apple Mail and my Apple eco-system friendly array of iPhones, iPads, Powerbook Pro’s and iMacs, for now (but will use [current] Gmail in a back-up pinch). Gmail will eventually disappear like Google Wave, Google Reader – and, probably Google+. Apple Mail does what I want it to do. I don’t want to use an App that only lets me do what the company behind it will allow me to see and do.
peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
brian patrick cork