Google wants to host your company’s email

A couple of days ago, Garrett Rogers of ZDNet posted an item about something interesting he found while poking around in the Javascript source code for Google’s Gmail: the word “domain.” Putting two and two together, he theorized that Gmail would soon be offering a hosted email solution for anyone with a domain of their own – such as a corporation, for example, or a university. In other words, Google would be your email administrator, but the email would look like it came from your domain.

Nice work, Garrett – because that’s exactly what Google has done. First there was a note on the Google blog about the company providing a hosted email service for San Jose City College – which was spotted by eagle-eyed Nick Carr of Rough Type, who posted a comment called “Google attacks Outlook.” In case you thought he was exaggerating just a tad, Google then put up its hosted service beta, which was spotted by the equally eagle-eyed Paul Kedrosky.

Not to be inflammatory, but I think this is huge. Yes, some companies will be concerned about letting an outside provider host their mail, just as there are people who don’t use Gmail because they don’t trust the company, or don’t want even robotic eyes looking through their messages – or because they are worried about the government forcing Google to deliver email to the authorities.

Despite all that, I think there will be plenty of companies – particularly small ones – as well as universities and other users who will be more than happy to get out from under the thumb of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, although as my friend Rob Hyndman notes, the MSFT package still has a lot of things that Gmail doesn’t when it comes to being a PIM. Phil Sim of Squash, meanwhile, thinks that hosted Gmail is just one more tool to lock you in, and Zack Handley says that many companies would probably find that Gmail is more than enough.

See my update here.

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