Why did Google launch Inbox when there was Gmail?

Could the launching of Inbox alongside Gmail stem from the fact that Google does not want to risk losing out on Gmail loyalists while trying out something new?

Google has launched an invitation-only email service, Inbox, which is an all-new take on viewing and responding to emails. While this has left many wondering if Inbox will eventually replace Gmail, the search giant has asserted that Inbox is “designed and developed alongside Gmail” and that “Gmail isn’t going anywhere.”

The launch of Inbox in many ways is reminiscent of Google Wave, which allowed users to share documents, photo galleries, feeds and other media in real time. Many thought it was going to replace Gmail and Google Docs, but was phased out as it did not receive the response Google had hoped. Could the launching of Inbox alongside Gmail stem from the fact that Google does not want to risk losing out on Gmail loyalists while trying out something new?

As pointed out by TechCrunch, Inbox was always meant to run in parallel with Gmail. Inbox is aimed at power users who get a ton of emails each a day, many of which that need to be replied to. This is in contrast with Gmail, where advanced features are hidden to make things simpler for average users.

On the other hand, there are other who believe that Google Inbox aims to replace Gmail in the future. Computer World's Mike Elgan believes that Google will kill Gmail as soon as it becomes a "mediated alternative everyone loves."

There could be some truth in there as Inbox was created with an aim to reinvent email. According to Medium, Google had been working on such a service since the last two years. Alex Gawley, product director of Gmail and Inbox, was quoted saying, “It’s a long time since email was invented. The world has changed a lot — Gmail came out three years before the iPhone came out! We love email, but there are some problems to be solved.”

The result is what we see today: Inbox. It’s an email service that lets you set reminders, categorises emails so it takes you little time to fathom which ones deserve the time of the day and those that don’t and intelligent notifications that can go as deep as telling you when is the right time to leave home for a meeting depending on the traffic. In many ways, it is the future of email, but the future of Gmail and Inbox – who stays in the picture and who doesn’t - depends on whether users are ready to go all in with Inbox.

So far we’ve seen mixed reviews for Google Inbox. While some love the fact that you can group emails, create tasks and be more productive, others find the user interface quite unintuitive as common options such as ‘Mark as read’ and ‘Archive’ have been phased out.

Though it’s a very early stage, at least we know that Inbox is Google’s vision of the future of email. If well-accepted, it might as well replace Gmail just as all old things make way for the new. Has Google done enough to differentiate the two services? Both Inbox and Gmail are great for basic needs such as reading and replying to emails. Inbox, however, takes a more task-based approach by letting you create reminders and create email bundles.

Despite the new features, Inbox essentially runs on Gmail with a new interface. As of now, you can only use Inbox if you have a Gmail account, so Inbox users have at least two different ways of working with emails. You also cannot create a separate Inbox account, nor can you integrate email accounts from other providers such as Yahoo or Outlook. Ultimately, users will have to make a choice and stick to one that suits them best. As of now, Gmail looks like it’s here to stay, particularly because Inbox doesn't quite fit into the conventional methods of working with emails. This could, however, change with time.

Have you tried Google Inbox yet? Tell us if you think it's compelling enough to make the switch.

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