1. Among the three leading providers which one has a distinct competitive advantage? There is probably no other company than Google that has been such a great catalyst of the Electronic Business environment. The company has grown faster than any other- by 2008 its revenue had reached US$ 21.796 Billion and its net income US$ 4.227 Billion. Its market capitalization was US$ 96.472 Billion as of January 22, 2009 (Wikipedia, 2009). Google revolutionized the Web search world in 1998 when it introduced link popularity formula that permitted to show search results in order of relevancy. Google’s success attracted its competitors. In 2004 Yahoo! that until then was using Google-powered search technology, launched Yahoo! Search. In the same year, Microsoft released its test version of MSN Search (now Windows Live). Google is the most used search engine in the world and its market share in terms of advertising revenue (53.7%) is huge in comparison with its major competitors- Yahoo! (2.7%) and Windows Life (8.9%) (Turban, 2008, p. 817). While its competitors have been targeting single applications Google has deployed, Google has been building a huge, general-purpose computing platform. The company’s gigantic infrastructure of data centers, switches, servers and storage devices etc. enables Google to deliver search results as fast as possible at as low cost as possible. The main advantages of Google’s continuously innovated and improved search technology- high speed, simplicity of use, essential design and content relevant advertising- are applied also to other products including Google News, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Desktop, Gmail and others. Although Yahoo! and Hotmail remain leaders in the webmail sector with 254.6 million and 256.2 million users respectively, Google with its 91.6 million user has gained an important market share (see Figure 1). It’s mostly because of the strong brand and the great reach of its search engine that has been translated into 97 languages and is used worldwide (Hild/Mitchell, 2004, p. 10).
Figure 1- Webmail users in millions as for February, 2008
Source: Brownlow, 2009
Another Google’s competitive advantage is its ability to leverage “The Power of Free” (Geelan, 2008). The company is able to do so because it has always been absolutely customer-centered. One of Google’s principles is “Focus on the user and all else will follow” (Google, 2009). Most of the company’s services are free and Google is continuously working on improving them and on creating new products that the users want and need. This extremely increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
2. What are the relevant differences among Google email service and the others? The crucial difference is that Google places the interest of its user first. Therefore its interface is clear and very simple to use. Yahoo! Mail and Windows Live Hotmail, on the other hand, offer more mainstream Outlook-like user interfaces. A particular feature of Gmail is that it organizes messages in a single thread or conversation. It makes it easier to follow the email exchange from the beginning. The speed of Gmail services is very consistent and it offers free POP-in and POP-out, meaning the user can access his/her other email accounts, or access Gmail from whatever email client he/she uses. The user can also access Gmail from all mobile devices such as iPhone or BlackBerry. Windows Live Hotmail, for instance, does not work with touchscreen internet interfaces (Wikipedia, 2009). Another relevant Gmail’s feature is the possibility to label emails for better search and organization. The user does not have to create folders and one email can have more than one label. The user can also archive messages without having to delete them. The archive functions moves emails from the inbox to “All Mail” where the user can always find it. One of the most relevant differences between Gmail and other webmail...