A couple of folks at work have been commenting on how the blogosphere has been raving about a couple of recent announcements from Google yet seemed to ignore similar functionality when it showed up in competing products. Here are three examples from this week.

  1. In his post entitled I know, cry me a river Reeves Little writes

    Case in point: looks like Google is in some sort of closed beta for a domains service and the digerati are all a-buzz.  Hmmm... turns out some of my colleagues in Redmond launched a new domains service for Windows Live way back in November, it's open to the public AND we have a bunch of folks using it including a slew of universities around the world

    I like that there is a Windows Live @ edu video so people can see what the program is like. But as Reeves points out, you don't have to be an educational institution to bring your own domain to Microsoft and have us host your email. With domains.live.com anyone can do that.

  2. In his post entitled Hotmail & IM Mike Torres writes

    The web is abuzz with talk of Google's new Gmail feature; Gmail Chat. I'm not too happy about giving one of our competitors airplay on my blog for integration that has been available in Hotmail for years... so instead, I'll take this opportunity to discuss the Hotmail features in a little more depth.  Note that I'm talking about the vanilla, standard-issue Hotmail used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide - not the amazing Windows Live Mail currently in limited beta testing.
    If you're already using Hotmail, you may know that Hotmail blended instant messaging with email a while back in a bunch of interesting ways. We started with merging your contact list into a unified list; a project I worked on about three years ago when I first joined MSN. Your Hotmail (or Windows Live Mail) contact list and your MSN Messenger (or Windows Live Messenger) contact list are one and the same - the only difference is that some contacts are "Messenger enabled".  It's fun to see other service providers start to pick up on this concept, as we've always thought this approach made a lot of sense.  A contact is a contact is a contact!

    Now that you've got your unified contact list... from within Hotmail, you can also see online presence information (online/offline/away) next to any email you receive or from within the Contacts tab (provided you have access to that contact's presence).
    Taking this a step further, whenever you receive an email from someone on your contact list, you can "Instant Reply" via IM instead of sending an email. Very handy feature for those of us smitten with IM. The Instant Reply feature immediately pops open a conversation window, complete with voice, video, games, and of course, text chat. No shortage of things to do with your friends here!

    But one of the great (and somewhat unsung) features in Hotmail is its ability to use MSN Web Messenger (http://webmessenger.msn.com) if you don't have the MSN Messenger client running on your PC. This means you don't have to install anything to get this stuff to sing. It just works for you.  When you sign-in to Hotmail, you immediately - without having to run anything else - have the ability to send and receive instant messages and check to see if your contacts are online.  Of course, things get a lot more interesting if you download MSN/Windows Live Messenger (http://messenger.msn.com) but if you're at a friend's house or at a kiosk in Bali, you don't have to.

    The IM integration into all of Microsoft's mail offerings (both Outlook & Hotmail) is something I keep seeing people ignore whenever they talk about IM integration in mail clients.

  3. Last but not least is Brandon Paddock's post entitled Want to search all your PCs from anywhere? Use Windows Desktop Search. where he writes

    Want to search all your PCs from anywhere?

    Don’t want all your personal data stored on an advertising companies’ server?

    Then you should try Windows Desktop Search combined with the free FolderShare application.  With FolderShare your data remains safely on your PCs, but you can search, browse, and access your data from any internet-connected PC.  FolderShare added search integration with WDS last summer.  They were acquired by Microsoft a few months ago and the product was made free at that time.

    Also, here’s more discussion about Google’s new "feature."

And that's just this week. Whew...

Saturday, February 11, 2006 3:35:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hi Dare

The current interest in Google is not love, it's an infatuation. Eventually that dries up and we'll be left with an advertising platform, a well-known popular branding and a decent enough search engine. They are nothing like a 60,000 person product/technology company, and most of the rabid industry gossip is just a desperate need for some 'red vs blue' new market dichotomy.

But in the interests in a bit of debate, how about these points?:

- Your domains.live.com comparison is correct, you moved first and should get credit, but the difference here is exchange vs gmail, not hotmail vs gmail. If Google get their claws into hosting business services then this won't be similar to the live.com offerings. Getting small business to get at least tempted away from owning their own software for portal/email/messaging/VoiceIP to a service offering from such a well-known brand will shake the revenue tree for you guys. Now we both know that in terms of features gmail ain't no exchange server, but perceptions are important too.

- You are correct about the IM features, the blindness to the Outlook side is perhaps do to the false start of the SmartTag technology - a lot of people I know in business have disabled the IM/Outlook integration. The Hotmail IM is very good, but the angle for the Google side is the eventual opening up of their IM garden, i.e. interopability between networks. If MSN was planning interop then this Gmail/IM integration would indeed be a non-event. Why don't you guys do that?

- Foldershare is wonderful, and a smart move to snap it up before the Vista client WinFS client story gets sorted out. But what you described is still a little MacGyver, as in hooking stuff together in ways probably not intended by either MSN or Foldershare. You can also do this with GDS if you wanted to. Personally I was surprised at the clumsiness of Google in sharing content like that, it's very unappealing and the reaction would have been pretty easy to predict I would have thought. They are either dumber than they look or they might be planning a 'device' to act as a store to offer the same feature to those that don't want to share their info. Again, a software as a service more for small business, where you get to choose your level of privacy/cost based on how much data you want to keep in-house? That makes it all about trust, which is where the infatuation bit comes in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 4:30:50 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I just looked in my hotmail account and saw none of that online presence stuff about a contact that I can see in msn messenger but I do see it in msn messenger. Maybe the case that I have is a known bug that hasn't been fixed.

I might have been interested and notice this if it had worked... :(

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 3:30:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think that probably the reason that people get excited is because of the difference between gmail and hotmail in the first place.

Hotmail was around for years before gmail, true enough, but gmail came along and made such a good (or at least better) job of it that people are interested to see how much better a job they make of the other things they do.

Obviously, everyone has their own favourites, and I'll be honest and say that I haven't sampled any of the live.com offerings yet; but all my hotmail is for me is a junk email address.
Thursday, February 16, 2006 8:14:35 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hi Dare, these are all valid points you make: Microsoft has been first with these ideas.
The reason why Google gets more media buzz out of it is because of the user experience. They are using ajax in awesome ways to enhance the experience of it.
User experience is the most important feature ANY app, whether web or desktop, can ever have, and this is also the only area where Gmail, as well as its integrated chat feature is (unfortunately) miles ahead of Hotmail's offering at this moment.
I'm eagerly awaiting the Live idea, I know the user experience is awesome with LiveMail - people just don't know about it yet :)
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