Gmail reached an impressive milestone last week when Google announced at its earnings call that it had passed a billion users on its email service. Pretty impressive when you consider that not that long ago people questioned putting their email in the cloud.
It seems pretty silly to think about today, a time when email in the cloud is a no-brainer, but you have to realize the cloud has come a long way in a relatively short time. Consider that way back in the dark ages of 2008 when I first saw Google pushing cloud apps like email, the company faced a tough audience asking questions about security and privacy. Eight years later it's a different world.
It's easy to forget that back then the iPhone was an infant and we were just about to see the first Android phones. It would be a year or so before we saw an iPad. The shift from Blackberries to smarter smartphones was on.
Let's set the Wayback Machine to 2009 and look at smartphone market share statistics. In December of 2009, comScore reported that BlackBerry had almost 42 percent of U.S. mobile market share. It's worth noting that Apple had around 25 percent, and Microsoft was third with 18 percent. Those numbers were about to change in a big way, and as they did, it was going to change how we accessed email while shifting our attitude about cloud apps pretty dramatically.
The times they were a changin'
By December 2012, just three years later, the picture had indeed changed. Android had more than 53 percent of the market. Apple had over 36 percent. BlackBerry was down to 6.4 percent, and Microsoft had dropped to 2.9 percent.
As those numbers changed, we became comfortable with apps, and we wanted to move all of our content smoothly between our devices. If we had a file, we wanted to access it easily on the phone, the tablet, and the desktop/laptop. Gone were the days of sneakernet (where we put a file on disk to move it between machines) or emailing files to ourselves.
The cloud changed all that and greatly simplified the way we deal with our content across devices. It made it trivial to access everything everywhere, and today we not only expect it, we demand it. In fact, we have been spoiled by this ease of use and access. We want all our software to operate this way, especially as our work and home lives have blurred.
So when you think about the enormity of that number, of a billion users on one application, consider how far Google has come to get us there. It wasn't that long ago we questioned the notion of the cloud. Today we expect it.
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