Google yesterday updated its Google Mobile app by adding push notifications for Gmail and Google Calendar. The idea is to notify the users about new mail or calendar events through push notifications on top of Google Mobile app and when the users click to view them, they will be taken to the web interface of Gmail and Google Calendar.
August 24, 2010 ↔ 2 comments
Google Push Notification For iPhone: Does It Matter For iPhone Users?
Why Is Google Doing This?
Google is basically a SaaS provider and they want the entry point to their services through the browsers. Even though I recently ranted about their lack of focus on mobile web strategy, browser is still the most important entry point for them on non-Android platforms and traditional desktops. On the iPhone platform, Google moved ahead of the native mail client support offered by Apple by offering a way to sync iPhone to Google mail, calendar and contacts using the exchange support in the native iPhone mail client. It worked pretty well for most of the Google Apps users and they could seamlessly sync their email, calendar and contacts with native iPhone applications. Ever since their bitter public divorce, Google has been taking the mobile web app route to push some of its services like Google Voice and Google Latitude to iPhone users. With this update of Google Mobile App, Google appears to be trying to make Apple irrelevant on iPhone. They are trying to get Gmail and Google Calendar users stop using the native mail and calendar client and instead use their mobile web app exclusively.
Why This Approach Will Not Work?
Even though there are some passionate users of mobile web apps among the iPhone and iPad users (including Fred Wilson), a significant number of users have their workflow aligned with the native apps, especially the mail and calendar apps. I strongly doubt that Google will be able to wean iPhone users away from the native mail and calendar clients. I am a strong advocate and user of SaaS and I use Google Apps for all my needs. But my workflow on my iPhone and iPad is tightly knit around the native mail and calendar apps. There is no way I am going to move away from these apps and I guess many others have the same thinking too. Also, at least in this version, Google iPhone app supports push notification for only one account. Power users like me have more than one Google Apps account and this app is of no use to us on iOS 4.
In short, this is a futile attempt by Google to get people away from iPhone’s native mail and calendar applications. Even though I have strong hopes on HTML5 and a future of mobile web based applications, we cannot completely ignore the fact that native applications still have a strong following, at least on the smartphones. It will be interesting to see Google’s strategy with iPhone in the future.