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Choose the Sheep

So far, I’m being offered someone’s ‘second virginity’, another person’s soul (used) and a collection of Punjabi MP3 tracks, to name but a few. There’s even an offer of a cloned sheep but I think the postage may be a little high.

I’m referring of course to Google’s new Gmail service or more accurately to Gmail Swap, a Web site for those who are desperate enough to offer, well, just about anything, for a Gmail account.

Because I was an early weblogger on Blogger.Com, now part of the expanding Google empire, I’ve been given one of their new Gmail accounts, the ‘G’ prefix doing double duty for gigabyte, which is the size of the free storage available to subscribers. In principle, Gmail, a web-based mail service is rather like Hotmail but with extra tweaks, indexing features and targeted advertising thrown in. The attraction of course, is the huge amount of mail storage, which makes it unlikely that most people will run out of space, in this lifetime at least.

Mail is, for most of us, the most mission critical application we have after the coffee machine and Google have moved the goal posts in such a way that we now have to start thinking where applications and data should sit in a broadband society. Being among the first to be invited to try the system, I found myself in dilemma. Should I choose my own name simon.moores or my company name, I settled for the latter and so now I’m going to start asking people to cc email to my Gmail account, where I can access it from anywhere and potentially for ever or at least as long as Google lasts.

In fact, like the Apple iPod, Gmail has become a trendy, ‘must have’ accessory for the gizmo-stylish who are feeling left out because Google has restricted the number of invitations it has sent out for the system as it tests and scales-up its offering. As a consequence, a healthy ‘Black Market’ has appeared on the Web for trading in Gmail accounts. One has to wonder however whether the system will be able to cope with the storage demands that will appear in future or perhaps Google is betting that the availability of cheap storage technology will always stay ahead of user demand?

The emergence of Gmail also raises a second argument for tomorrow’s business. In a future where technology is increasingly cheap and commoditised, with most of the white collar workforce owning their own PCs and even personal music players and PDAs able to carry a gigabyte of digital storage, why should companies be expected to invest so much in their own IT? Should tomorrow’s business mandate that employees own their own cars, mobile phone, televisions and technology? Next-generation – thin- businesses may use a thin-client model of access to protect confidentiality while everything else flows freely in an out of the employees own Gmail type accounts and various computing devices?

This is an argument and an evolution of hot-desking that’s starting to attract serious attention from those who insist that business needs to find a means of stepping-off the present technology curve on to a new one, which serves the needs of business instead of serving the interests of technology companies. Meanwhile, I’ll try and decide whether I should swap my new Gmail account for something more exotic, perhaps not those Punjabi MP3 tracks and I’m not sure about a second virginity either.


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