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Bill Gates Didn't Understand Gmail

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 101 comments

What do you have in your email that's not email?

Google's Gmail is one of the very best in free webmail services. Originally thought to be an Fool's Day joke when it was announced on April 1, 2004 with its 1 GB of free storage (massive for email at the time), Gmail today has grown its storage quota for its free accounts to nearly 8 GB.

While Gmail's users loved the spaciousness and the promise by Google that nothing would ever need to be deleted again, another "Big G" – Bill Gates – didn't understand why anyone would need that much storage space.

Author Steven Levy detailed in his new book about Google, In the Plex, how he had a conversation with Gates where the Microsoft founder was puzzled by Gmail's quota.

Levy told Gates that he had already "consumed more than half of Gmail's 2-gigabyte free storage space." Gates "looked stunned, as if this offended him," as relayed by a story from the Huffington Post.

Gates supposedly asked, "How could you need more than a gig? What've you got in there? Movies? Power-Point presentations? How many messages are there? … Seriously, I'm trying to understand whether it's the number of messages or the size of messages."

The author wrote in his book, "After doing the math in his head, he came to the conclusion that Google was doing something wrong."

At that point, Gates had already signed up for a Gmail account to give it a try, so it wasn't due to unfamiliarity with the service.

"Oh sure, I play with everything… I play with A-Mail, B-Mail, C-Mail, I play with all of them," Gates apparently said, likely with a hint of jest.

While this may paint a picture of Gates of being behind the times, his point was that pure email shouldn't require an exorbitant amount of space – if the content is mostly text-based. Once you throw in attachments, then it's more than just plain email.

Of course, now even Microsoft's own Hotmail service offers 5 GB of storage as a starting point. As stated on the Live page:

Hotmail storage grows as you need it, so you shouldn't have to worry about deleting old email. You'll start with 5 GB. If you ever get close to filling that up, you'll automatically get more space. (Of course, this assumes a reasonable growth rate.)

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    zkevwlu , April 17, 2011 8:24 PM
    I've been using gmail for the better part of 4 years now. I get roughly 10-15 emails per day, mostly work related. After 4 years, I am currently sitting on only 200 megs of emails.

    So I can definitely imagine why Bill Gates would be confused.
  • 11 Hide
    Drag0nR1der , April 17, 2011 8:37 PM
    Quote:
    "Oh sure, I play with everything… I play with A-Mail, B-Mail, C-Mail, I play with all of them,"


    Whenever there's a story that makes me think I'm going to think less of Gate's after reading it, I always somehow find something that makes me like him even more.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    stm1185 , April 17, 2011 8:01 PM
    I like having the online storage. I routinely toss things up on Live's Sky Drive so I don't have to copy it to a flash drive to take it with me to work.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 17, 2011 8:05 PM
    numbers of messages vs size of messages. but I wonder why not to have more if it is free?
  • -1 Hide
    ltbob , April 17, 2011 8:09 PM
    silly gates
  • -2 Hide
    blibba , April 17, 2011 8:24 PM
    Levy told Gates that he had already "consumed more than half of Gmail's 2-gigabyte free storage space."
  • 18 Hide
    zkevwlu , April 17, 2011 8:24 PM
    I've been using gmail for the better part of 4 years now. I get roughly 10-15 emails per day, mostly work related. After 4 years, I am currently sitting on only 200 megs of emails.

    So I can definitely imagine why Bill Gates would be confused.
  • 6 Hide
    verbalizer , April 17, 2011 8:27 PM
    I kind of agree with him...
    Of course I'm not the second richest man in the world either.. LOL
  • 1 Hide
    fayzaan , April 17, 2011 8:29 PM
    maybe one day we can share files via the emails!!! instead of using torrents or things like rapidshare etc.
  • 2 Hide
    squallypie , April 17, 2011 8:30 PM
    my dad gets and sends close to 50-100 mails ( depending on the day ). many of them have pdf and word files. after 3 years, his mailbox has 35000 messages and his 8gb storage is full.

    He also cant find time to delete the messages so we actually have to find a way to archive the whole thing locally using a software instead of deleting manually..

    different people, different style of working, different needs....
  • 0 Hide
    dkant1n , April 17, 2011 8:35 PM
    The email system is old, it should evolve
  • 11 Hide
    Drag0nR1der , April 17, 2011 8:37 PM
    Quote:
    "Oh sure, I play with everything… I play with A-Mail, B-Mail, C-Mail, I play with all of them,"


    Whenever there's a story that makes me think I'm going to think less of Gate's after reading it, I always somehow find something that makes me like him even more.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , April 17, 2011 8:45 PM
    640k Bill, eh?
  • 0 Hide
    pelov , April 17, 2011 8:57 PM
    5gb?! nice. Now if only you can actually log in without getting kicked back to the main page then you may have something.
  • 3 Hide
    memadmax , April 17, 2011 9:21 PM
    If you dont delete anything and constantly sign up for spam service... then yea 2 gigs+ is for you....
  • 1 Hide
    adiposity , April 17, 2011 9:21 PM
    "You are currently using 901 MB (11 %) of your 7573 MB."

    I do not go crazy on my e-mail. Granted, I've had this longer than Levy had had his, at the time, but 1 GB does not seem crazy to me.

    At work we have people who use PST files and some of them are over 30GB. The primary reason is all the pdf attachments they pass around when scanning important documents.

    My mailbox does not have loads of attachments, but I suspect that's where most of the space is used up. I also have a few dev mailing lists which just dump e-mails in at a regular rate. dev@apache, for one, has tons of e-mails of which many contain patches. So I suspect a lot is in there.

    I understand Bill's confusion but it's all about non-personal mailing lists and attachments.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 17, 2011 9:23 PM
    Hey i just wonder if you guys realise that just prior to the introducing of e-mail there was another communication system that was far more efficient and faster and more capacious than e-mail today! Espescially when it come to some gossip news. . . .it was known as femail (:-D)
  • -1 Hide
    bison88 , April 17, 2011 9:27 PM
    Of course it seems silly now in retrospect but you have to understand Bill Gates mind at least remotely. The main for all he's worth is very narrow minded. When he sees something he attacks it, but he never sees the "bigger" picture per se. Which is why Microsoft often became dominant then dormant in many areas, not really decaying, just not expanding from its original objective. So when Bill talks about email he's thinking post office size letters with a few packages, not packages with a few letters. It's a shame to watch Microsofts creativity fall so hard especially now that he's left as CEO, but give it time and Google will find themselves in a similar situation no matter how many Masters and PhD employees they higher. That 15-20 year mark seems to be the time frame tech companies lose their originality and start stabilizing into a big modern corporation, if they can last that long.
  • -2 Hide
    dogofwars , April 17, 2011 9:36 PM
    64K should be enough for video memory isn't it. Gates had problem before understanding the concept of large space requirement because he was always thinking to make big thing with less.And also the 640K for the main memory one http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Gates
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , April 17, 2011 9:39 PM
    I am old school and still user flash drives and on occasional mechanical drives to move very large files and folders that just was to large for the flash :s

    Moving a TB worth of youtube videos to somewhere else online is not possible for me.
  • -4 Hide
    SmileyTPB1 , April 17, 2011 9:50 PM
    Keep in mind that at the time Hotmail had like a 10mb cap and you had to pay MS money to get more space. Of course Bill didn't get it. He didn't understand a business model that gave someone anything for free.

    Of course Bill has never been an innovator, he's always been more of the steal other peoples ideas type of guy.
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