Google Apps users clamoring for Inbox

Demand for Google's new email app is very high among customers of the Apps suite

Throngs of Google Apps customers are demanding access to Inbox, so the company is scrambling to release a version of this new email app for the workplace communication and productivity suite.

"Supporting these accounts comes with other demands and we're working hard on addressing them so we can get Inbox to Google Apps users," wrote members of the Inbox team during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session Wednesday.

Google released Inbox in preview mode and via invitation only in October. It runs on the Chrome browser, and on apps for iPhones and Android smartphones.

Google built Inbox from scratch, independent from Gmail, in an attempt to reinvent email by taming clutter and featuring a variety of assistive capabilities for automating the sorting and categorizing of messages and processing of tasks.

Inbox is being tested by users of personal Gmail accounts, but interest from Apps suite customers has been intense.

"We were pleasantly surprised to see how open-minded Inbox users are to making big changes to their work email workflow, and the high demand for Inbox on Google Apps accounts has already caused us to speed up our efforts to bring Inbox to all of you. Hang tight!," the Inbox team wrote.

Echoing the feelings of several other Google Apps users, a Reddit AMA session participant wrote that Inbox would be more useful in a workplace context than in personal accounts.

"I'll be perfectly honest in that Inbox for my personal Gmail account is nifty, but ultimately useless to me. I simply do not receive enough action-oriented mail in my personal account," this person wrote. "I do, however, have third-party plugins and other silly workarounds in my office Gmail account because I really need to shepherd those interactions very finely. That's all to say thanks very much for the really cool app. I can't wait to use it where I need it the most!"

The lack of access to Inbox was one of the most commented upon topics during the session. The issue generated angry posts from participants frustrated with what they see as Google's sluggish pace in offering new features for Apps users, often long after the features reach consumer accounts.

"While I understand that you need to tread carefully with features that enter the enterprise world, I find it sad that these hugely helpful features ... are slow to implement," wrote one participant. "Inbox for Apps account would be a huge game changer."

The interest in Inbox among Apps users could also be a sign that they're desperate for help managing their email. IBM and Microsoft are also addressing the problem with new email management tools for their enterprise email systems.

Long term, Google's plans for Inbox extend beyond email. "Were starting with email, but ultimately our goal is to build a tool to manage all of the things you need to get back to in your life. Email is a great place to start because it contains lots of things that you need to get back to already," the Google officials wrote.

The Inbox team is also prioritizing porting Inbox to other browsers, and releasing Inbox apps for iPads and Android tablets. The roadmap also includes integrating Inbox with Google Drive. The team is also interested in letting Inbox handle email from other webmail providers, like Yahoo and Microsoft.

One thing that's not in the works: support for mobile browsers.

Asked whether Inbox will replace Gmail, the Google officials wrote that they don't expect this to happen "in the short term" but hope it will occur "in the very long term."

"Inbox is something new -- that's why we're launching it as a separate product. We care deeply about Gmail and Gmail users, but in the long run as we add more features to Inbox and respond to user feedback we hope that everyone will want to use Inbox instead of Gmail. Ultimately, our users will decide," they wrote.

They were also asked why Google opted to build a separate product, instead of improving Gmail, and they said that the way people use email has change too much since Gmail's launch 10 years ago, so they felt they needed to build a new app from the ground up.

"With Inbox, we took a step back and did a lot of research into how most people are using email today. What we found was that email works as a to-do list for many people, that phone usage is starting to eclipse desktop usage, and that many people have negative feelings towards email because it feels like so much work," they wrote.

The Inbox team members said they don't believe the recurrent predictions that email will disappear. "We see no evidence that email use is declining," they wrote.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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