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Microsoft Woos Gmail Users introduces a Gmail migration tool to attract unhappy Google email users.

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In early 2010, Google tried to accelerate the growth of Google Apps by launching Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange, server software designed to help companies move data from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps.

That was several months after Google launched Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook to help Outlook users connect to Google Apps as a back end. That same year, it also debuted Google Apps Migration for Lotus Notes and Connect for Blackberry Enterprise Server to make it easier for users of those systems to "Go Google."

On Wednesday, Microsoft returned the favor, adding another front in its broad counterattack on Google and on the threat ad-funded software poses to its business model. It introduced a service to simplify the process of importing Gmail messages into, the company's successor to its Hotmail service.

Both Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail have more than 400 million users worldwide.

[Will Google advertisers love or hate this change? See Gmail Shows Images By Default.]

Naoto Sunagawa, a senior program manager lead at Microsoft, explains in a post that connecting a Gmail account to an account via OAuth requires only a few steps. "This will import your Gmail emails into your inbox and, because you've connected both accounts, your Google contacts will automatically appear in," he said.

Sunagawa suggested that Microsoft's reason for introducing a Gmail migration tool is "growing frustration with outdated email services," specifically Gmail, a conclusion supported by a ZDNet opinion column, "The Case Against Gmail." Sunagawa also cited an Ipsos poll indicating that almost a quarter of consumers would switch email providers if it were easier to do so and that 70% don't want ads interfering with their email experience.

Gmail's most contentious feature is its automated scanning of message text to serve ads, which Google would presumably argue enhances Gmail rather than interferes with it. Nonetheless, Microsoft has made much of what it characterizes as Google's intrusive behavior in its ongoing "Scroogled" ad campaign, which has attacked Google for paid inclusion in shopping search results, for scanning Gmail messages to serve ads, and to disparage Chromebooks. The company is even selling anti-Google merchandise on its website.

This is but a small part of a larger lobbying campaign in the US and Europe to convince lawmakers that Google holds an anticompetitive monopoly on search advertising that must be regulated. On Thursday, FairSearch Europe, a group composed of many Google competitors including Microsoft, announced that a study it commissioned concluded that Google's most recent proposal to settle European objections to its business practices is unlikely to restore competition in the search market.

Over the summer, FairSearch attacked Google over its distribution of Android, claiming that distributing Android for free is anticompetitive. At the time, Groklaw editor Pamela Jones said the FairSearch complaint represented "an attack against the Open Source development model itself." She characterized it as "part of a coordinated smear campaign against Google."

Nonetheless, Google almost certainly will be forced to make some changes to accommodate its critics. Late last month, the Dutch Data Protection Authority concluded that Google's practice of combining data from its various services violates the country's data protection law. It remains to be seen whether Google will bend so far that it disrupts its stride. Whatever the outcome, Microsoft appears to be ready to pick up the pieces.

Thomas Claburn is editor-at-large for InformationWeek. He has been writing about business and technology since 1996 for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. He is the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and his mobile game Blocfall Free is available for iOSAndroid, and Kindle Fire.

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IW Pick
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 12:52:55 PM
You should try it, Kristin.

Gmail is a clusterf*ck compared to Outlook: Gmail has ads to add to the clutter. Outlook doesn't. Gmail has integrated chat. Outlook has integrated Skype. Gmail is a one window pane deal. Outlook has two window panes side-by-side... a column with e-mails, and when each one is highlighted, the second pane shows the e-mail in its entirety, so you don't have to click Inbox to go back. Everything is right there in front of you. Also, if you want to chat with someone on Skype, it opens up into a third window setting on the right, giving you full view of your Inbox, your selected e-mail, and your chat conversation in its entirety. It's seamless. And this is all in the initial redesign from Hotmail. It's still a new product and it's already out-performing Gmail (if you consider everything I just mentioned worthwhile, anyway).

Then there's the actual Outlook program that comes with Office. Gmail doesn't even compare to that. Comparing Gmail to the Office version of Outlook would be like comparing a Honda to a Rolls Royce. Comparing Gmail to would be like comparing that same Honda to a BMW.

However, I realize Gmail is the familiar option, so whatever makes people feel comfortable I suppose. I don't think Microsoft is grasping at straws at all. Quite the contrary, I think they're doing people a favor by giving them an easy path to what is in every way better e-mail. Sometimes people are so complacent and firmly entrenched in a way of life that they don't know something better is out there. Add to that Gmail's scanning your personal stuff... I just don't see why any intelligent, self-respecting person would choose to stay with them. I'm always seeking out the better option, but combine that with being a fan of my own privacy, I think I'll stick with Microsoft.

As for people I know, the only person I know currently who still uses Gmail is my mom, and that's because she just can't be bothered. Everyone else I'm in contact with uses Outlook or some Windows 365 corporate or university e-mail.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 12:41:59 PM
Spam in
I have both Gmail and Hotmail accounts and I very much prefer the former. still, after all these years, has much more spam than Gmail.  With Gmail I may get a spam or phishing mail about once every couple of months.  My Hotmail is forwarded to my Gmail but I go there every once and a while to clean it out and it is filled with spam---those messages never get through the Gmail filters.

Personally, I also greatly appreciate the new inbox tab options in Gmail.  It has made finding my priority mails, and dealing with each category when I want, very easy.
User Rank: Ninja
12/13/2013 | 12:18:41 PM
Google policies
Quite a few elements are coming together to paint Google in quite a poor light at the moment. Gone are the days when it was seen as the non-corporate alternative to Microsoft. Today it seems more like a data hoarder and corporate shill.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 10:23:05 AM
Have you tried
Curious to hear from anyone who has adopted as their primary email client. I've seen reviews but haven't heard from anyone who has used it on an ongoing basis.
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 10:15:26 AM
I get that Microsoft's angle for this is privacy considerations with the scanning Google does, but it feels like Microsoft is grasping at straws by calling Gmail outdated. I don't know anyone who would ditch Gmail in favor of Outlook -- scanning or no scanning. Perhaps targeting Yahoo customers would be more productive considering all the problems they've had recently.
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