GMail Does Tasks! Why?

So we just found out that GMail now does Tasks or To Do lists. Supposedly, there was much rejoicing.They actually had a very simple reason for doing this as well:

People use Gmail to get stuff done, so we’ve added a lightweight way to keep track of what you need to do, right from within Gmail.

They made adding tasks simple, as well as reviewing the tasks. Overall, it looks like a very nice and minimalistic approach. You can actually say it is very Google-like. However, I have a simple question. Why? There are several To Do list and task managers that have been in existence for several years. My personal favorite, Remember The Milk, has fantastic list and task management, uses Google Gears for offline access and even integrates with GMail. Why not just buddy up with one of the existing options? Even better, why not purchase Remember The Milk (RTM) and give it full Google service integration? They actually have revenue in the form of “pro” subscriptions.

I am sure people will ask why I think they should buy RTM. First, GMail just created their service, so there are bound to be issues. This first release, though nice enough, has a limited feature set. What makes RTM such an attractive partner? RTM has list sharing as well as the concept of public and private lists. RTM has Twitter integration. RTM has an iPhone and iPod Touch application. RTM has synchronization with BlackBerry tasks as well as the Tasks application in Windows Mobile. RTM integrates with Google Calendar. RTM has widgets for iGoogle and Netvibes. And they also have a really nice mobile version. Oh yeah, they also have various translations and an API for third party applications.

So, I ask again. Why create a simplistic task management application for GMail? Why is Google wasting time creating little applications like this when there have been some issues with GMail and GTalk lately. Is Google finally spreading themselves too thin?

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16 thoughts on “GMail Does Tasks! Why?

  1. Why? Because most competitors (Yahoo!, Windows Live) already have this, and Gmail is trying to catch up on the “feature to do list” (pun intended.) See themes. No, Google doesn’t understand that partners do it better any better than Yahoo! and Windows Live do.


  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


  3. I don’t know – I tried RTM, both integrated with Google and as a standalone web app, and while it is a great task management tool, with great mobile features, I just don’t like having another data store to take care of. I find it much easier to take more of the GTDInbox approach and just use Gmail as an incredibly flexible data store with all sorts of tags to categorize my items.

    So, for me Gmail with tasks built-in will probably be a good thing, since it is probably just a custom view on my email items. We’ll see – about to start trying it out..


  4. While I suppose it is nice that Google added their own task manager, it really wasn’t necessary. Some people use RTM or some other task manager. Others just email themselves reminders. Either way, I do not think that Google will spend too much time working on their (basic) task manager. But who knows. They do tend to be rather sporadic.


  5. I want a basic, integrated, editable task list that links to e-mails. I use RTM, but it’s overkill for what I want.

    So I’m happy about the new gadget!


  6. Started using the new Tasks last night. It is nice that you can create a task based on an email, and the link to the email is preserved. However, there does not seem to be a way to link an existing task to an email.

    Also, tasks are organized into lists, which is like primitive email folders! I wish tasks could be tagged, just like in the rest of Gmail.


  7. Wade,

    The issue I had was that there is no need to have a new task management app. The RTM integration works very well and it would make sense to partner/purchase with a leader. However, I will probably have additional comments on this “event” in the next day or two.


  8. Dave and Shannon,

    Both of you said something that makes a lot of sense. First, “Tasks” is simple. RTM may be a bit heavy for some people. I always argue that you should go with simple first, and I forgot that in my haste.


  9. Sup Rob,

    One reason RTM wasn’t bought or integrated is, like someone said before, they’re competitors. I don’t feel that’s the reason. Google is VERY picky about who they acquire and its not from the application’s popularity stand point, but rather from the coding.

    I have a few friends who work at Google and basically if they’re interested in a property, they go and check it out, if they like the technology, they’ll hand you a copy of their standards and basically say “if you can get your app to match these standards by X time, you’ve got a deal”. That’s one reason they chose Jaiku over Twitter.

    And from what I’ve seen at conferences about RTM its still kinda “hacked” in many places and most likely is “dirty” in Googles eyes.

    Another point, is I use Gmail’s web client almost exclusively and I don’t like having to switch services or use GreaseMonkey (as its blocked at work), so this is integrated perfectly for someone like me. And its simple unlike RTM almost too-rich feature set.


  10. Actually, I think the last paragraph I just meant to say, I like the Consistency. I know I can use Google Apps et al, but I can’t for work or if I check my mail from other places. So having all of it in the browser client w/o widgets, Google Apps, greasemonkey, or any other mods, is the important thing.


  11. Bdog, I am seeing a lot of people with the same idea as you. It is simple enough and it is in gmail so you do not have to install anything. I still like the partner/purchase idea, but I can understand why.

    I have no idea what the RTM code looks like so I can not comment on the “Google standards” idea. Interesting concep though.


  12. The inclusionn of tasks in gmail has gone a long way to making gmails more useful, but until google comes up with a way of linking gmail, tasks and the calendar it will not become a true competitor for microsoft outlook in terms of time and workload management. I have written a number of articles on this subject on my blog.


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