Google's Gmail was announced last week on April Fool's Day. It's free email with a gigabyte of storage.

Throughout the day, I kept wondering, "Could this be an April Fool's joke?" Since they announced on April 1, I was essentially thinking about Gmail the whole day. Heck, I've been thinking about it so much that I decided to write this blog entry about it, and Gmail isn't not even available yet to the general public. Brilliant marketing.

Anyway, Kevin Fox who works on Gmail posted some screenshots to tease us all. Some others.

It also looks like someone named Paul posted up a special message for his S.O. on the Gmail homepage. If you click the "Happy Birthday April!" link at the bottom of the Gmail homepage, you see the picture here: [image] . That's nice.

Which brings me to an observation about MSN. This is similar to my previous rant about Office HTML, drawing on my pre-Microsoft past of being a web guy.

Comparing those Gmail screenshots above to what we currently have in Hotmail, I notice:

  • Gmail, like most of Google, feels like a web site.  It's mostly text, links, and buttons with very few pictures.  I'm sure it's fast.
  • Hotmail, like most of MSN, feels like a computer program, in this case Outlook.  It's prettier than Gmail, looks more futuristic, and feels more powerful.

But, I sometimes feel that MSN doesn't get the web. As an example, here's part of Hotmail's main page after you login. What parts do you think are clickable?

[image]

I'd guess the red text and the blue text since they're different colors from the normal black text.

Answer:

[image]

Wow, was I off.

If Hotmail just stuck to the default web color settings, we'd get blue, underlined links, and I'd know exactly where to click. How simple would that be? Every time I run into something like this, I think, "Why do we need something so complicated?  I'd prefer a simpler web site that was easier to use."

But that wouldn't be MSN. Despite what some say, I think Microsoft does a great job innovating. MSN in particular has made an incredible transformation these past few years despite issues like the one above. My current MSN favorite is MSN Video, essentially the only place on the web where I can watch TV clips for free. It's great, and nothing like the average web site.

Hotmail and Gmail. MSN Search and Google. Exciting times ahead.