Google+ notifications arriving in Gmail will spice up cloud wars

9 May 2012

Internet giant Google has revealed it is adding Google+ comments and notifications directly into its popular Gmail email service. Starting today, users can also reply to Google+ notifications from Gmail.

In addition to being able to add people to Circles, and view recent Google+ content in the people widget, users of Gmail can view, comment on and +1 posts from inside their inbox.

Comments will then appear in the Google+ stream in real-time and responses from others will instantly appear in Gmail as part of the notification message.

There is no doubt this will certainly spice up the Gmail experience. However, I can’t help but fear the blurring of the boundaries somewhat. For example, what if I mistakenly reply to a private email publicly? The only way to figure this out is to get using it.

“We’re rolling out all of these features over the next week to users who’ve upgraded to Google+,” Gmail software engineer Zohair Hyder said in the official Gmail blog. He added that users who wish to can adjust which notification emails they want to receive in Gmail by going to their Google+ settings.

Users can also reply to Google+ notifications from their smartphones, not only from their Gmail app but also POP and IMAP clients, and the reply gets added into the ongoing Google+ conversation.

“Notification emails are a great way to keep up with what’s happening in the Google+ stream: whether someone mentions you, comments on your post, or shares with you directly,” Hyder said.

“It’s not always enough to just read these updates, however; sometimes you want to respond right away, right from your inbox. The good news is that starting today, you can reply to Google+ notifications from Gmail.”

Cloud wars intensify as social is added to the mix

Another thing to think about is the impact the ongoing merger of Google+ with Gmail could mean for rival platforms like Hotmail or Yahoo!

Already Gmail is choc full of additional functionality, like search and instant videoconferencing.

Last week, Microsoft revealed it is killing its Windows Live brand in order to allow existing apps and services like Hotmail, Sky Drive and Messenger better thrive in its upcoming Windows 8 app marketplace. It also revealed it plans a ‘Microsoft account’ ID system.

I have no doubt in my mind this is a necessary step Microsoft needs to take to match the ubiquity most users currently enjoy with their Apple IDs and the single login that sits across most of Google’s products.

But something is missing. While Microsoft has a sliver of a stake in social networking giant Facebook, it is clear where Google is driving the battle to Microsoft’s door: social integration and a ubiquitous cloud experience.

In other words, Google has been carefully aligning its forces to secure victories in the personal space and the professional space. Google Drive – its storage rival to Dropbox, iCloud and Sky Drive – is a case in point as it deftly brings Google Docs into the fold. Joining these up with Gmail and Google+ makes sense.

And we haven’t even gotten round to talking about the lynchpin of all of this – mobile – where Android is leagues ahead of Microsoft’s nascent Windows Phone platform.

Microsoft is rallying its forces, too, in time for the arrival of Windows 8, but does it have the social glue?

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years