Microsoft fights Gmail in the workplace

Funny true story. The default Exchange mailbox size at SAP was 50mb – fifty megabytes, or put another way, equal to one of those free USB drives that they give out at conferences. The IT guys in Palo Alto were always really good to me by increasing it whenever I asked and with no hassle at all for which I was always grateful (I’d be sure to collect all that conference swag, including usb drives, and give it to IT, they love that crap for whatever reason).

So one of my friends asked me one day how I had so many messages in my inbox (I rarely deleted email, there was something like 10,000 messages in that mailbox but with Copernic’s search it was never a problem finding anything), and I told him that I just asked IT and they made it larger. He calls me the next day and says “hey, IT said they would make my inbox larger but they were going to charge my cost center” to which I said “you have to be fucking kidding me, tell them you are going to start using Gmail for all your work stuff!”.

When he told them this they spouted off about how this would violate company security policies, etc etc etc. He did anyway and I ended up using Gmail a lot for work as well because the other restriction SAP imposed on it’s employees was file size limitations for in/outbound messages, which of course Gmail does not (well they do, but it’s really really generous).

Apparently, a lot of corporate email users are ditching Exchange for Gmail irrespective of what their employers are providing them:

Microsoft is fighting the trend for corporate employees to duck IT policies and auto-forward all their work email to Gmail.

The software giant is urging employers to increase mailbox sizes to 2GB or more.

So here’s the not funny part of the story, at least in the event you are Microsoft. I was talking with the guy that is responsible for all our systems, including email, at Teqlo the other day; we had a running conversation about using Zimbra for email but because of some server requirements and me being a really cheap bastard who doesn’t want to pay for any hardware I don’t have to, we had been putting it off.

Our mail server is hosted by Network Solutions and we’re kind not happy with that arrangement anymore for a variety of reasons, so I said to Scott “what about using gmail for our mail server, this is what Socialtext does?” and he said “yeah they have that new service for hosted domains“. We looked at each other and I asked everyone else in the room if they could think of a good reason why we should not just use Gmail for our mail server, and start using the Google Calendar as well, eyes darted around and nobody raised any objections or issues, so I guess that is what we are going to do now. Before anyone barks out “but what will you do about offline access” let me say that I’m already using my Apple Mail app against my gmail account so this really is a non issue.

The lesson for companies that are providing IT services to employees: make it simple and as unrestricted as possible because your employees will figure out the path of least resistance on their own and they, like me, often don’t quite give a shit about “company policy” if 1) it’s obstructing their ability to do their job, and 2) it’s patently unreasonable or based on the same reason my mother used to give me, “because I said so”.

The lesson for technology vendors, in this case Microsoft: come out with services that effectively compete with leading edge stuff like Gmail rather than just doing what your customers tell you to do, which in the case of Exchange was develop nothing but features that enable easier management of Exchange servers and better spam filtering. Make it easy and cheap to get started so that companies like my own consider your solution before just signing up with Gmail or whatever other alternative because it’s immediate, easy, and really does work well. This reminds me of Ray Lane’s 7 Laws for the New Software Landscape.

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California Population Slows, Again – Worker Shortage Seen

Yet another news story about the state of education in California, although this one in the form of a story on how California’s population growth is slowing as people leave the state for opportunities and cost of living. The reporter on this piece points out that the state’s supply of college-educated workers is in doubt, but I would add that it’s not just college-educated that matters but qualified as well.

While we’re on the subject, not every kid is going to get a college education or put it to work for that matter, so the recent election that saw passage of a bond measure devoted to vocational training is a step in the right direction. Irrespective of what your views on college level education, the fact of the matter is that the world still requires cabinetmakers, steelworkers, electricians and tradespeople of all kinds – and these are proud jobs that pay well.

California no longer population magnet / High cost of living seen as culprit in driving people away:
These changes could leave California without the educated workforce it needs, in part because of the widening achievement gap among California students. The Public Policy Institute of California projects that by 2020, the state’s supply of college-educated workers won’t meet the state’s needs, said institute fellow Deborah Reed.

I also want to draw your attention to a fascinating report that was recently published by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a bipartisan and highly qualified group (check out the bios of the commission members).

The report, titled “Tough Choices or Tough Times” calls for radical overhaul of American K-12 education, including eliminating 11th and 12th grade, overhauling compensation and pension systems for administrators and teachers, and removing oversight from school boards.

Predictably, the plan was greeted by universal opposition from teacher unions and associations for school boards.

“Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce” (National Center on Education and the Economy)

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Read more on Education in the US at Wikinvest