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Microsoft's Gmail Man Is More Like a Google Strawman

Matthew Weinberger

July 29, 2011

Microsoft gathered no less than 12,000 sales pros, product teams, evangelists, and executives in Denver earlier in July for the Microsoft Global Exchange conference. And top of the agenda was getting Microsoft’s employees amped about selling Office 365 and succeeding over Google Apps — and showed the “Gmail Man” spoof to get the ball rolling. While the event was naturally under strict information blackout, one enterprising attendee was able to get ahold of the video, which you can watch here:

If you can’t watch, the spoof features “The Gmail Man” — literally the man who delivers Gmail messages — sifting through his deliveree’s mail and forcing them to look at comically irrelevant ads. The first sketch even features a little girl getting increasingly upset as the Gmail Man explains that he goes through everyone’s mail. The punch line? “Your email is your business. Google makes it theirs.”

It’s a not-so-subtle reference to one of Gmail’s first controversies, when Google announced that it would have crawlers look for keywords in messages and display contextual ads on the sidebar. But “Gmail Man” puts a misleadingly human face on the issue — thought that’s also the point, as Microsoft puts its considerable Office 365 propaganda engine into gear.

Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard had this pithy response for the video on his Google+ account:

“MSFT being silly & wrong about Gmail. We don’t even have time to read our own email.”

Mary Jo Foley, the All About Microsoft blogger who originally uploaded the “Gmail Man” video after being given it by an anonymous source, raises a question of its authenticity. But it rings true to her, and I’m inclined to agree.

I’ve reached out to a prominent Google Apps Authorized Reseller for their take, but I’ve yet to hear back – expect an update when I do. But in the meanwhile, I have one final thought: paid Google Apps users can turn off those ads, so any point Microsoft was trying to make is instantly moot.

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