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Bill Gates Didn't Understand Gmail

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 10 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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  • 0 Hide
    CsG_kieran_2 , 18 April 2011 04:17
    So basically Bill thinks less is better?

    You should get to work trimming down Windows 7 then...
  • -1 Hide
    Zingam , 18 April 2011 16:04
    CsG_kieran_2So basically Bill thinks less is better?You should get to work trimming down Windows 7 then...

    And I've never been able what is Microsoft doing with these $300 they require per Windows licence.
    And I don't understand the need that everybody should update their PC each two years. The hardware should last at least 5 years and the software well the OS for 10.
  • 0 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , 18 April 2011 16:55
    Bill was perfectly correct at the time, unless you were receiving like 100 emails a day the only reason you would have needed that much space at the time is because you never bother deleting your old email. Hotmail has raised to 5GB because its now recognised that most email users are lazy and its easier to pander to them than train them better, its that simple, I doubt anyone out there really has 5-8GB of emails that must be kept as they are super important. I mean how many is that? its gotta be in excess of 100,000 emails O.o
  • Display all 10 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    Silmarunya , 18 April 2011 16:57
    CsG_kieran_2So basically Bill thinks less is better?You should get to work trimming down Windows 7 then...

    Bill Gates doesn't work on Windows anymore, remember? Although they indeed could use his hand again...

    Someone should abduct the lead dev, tie him to a chair and explain him that we want an OS, not an artwork that happens to run software, albeit slowly and with lots of bugs.
  • -1 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , 18 April 2011 16:59
    As im bored I just did the math, 8GB will hold just over 111,848 regular sized emails, nobody should need an archive that big, its just laziness.
  • -1 Hide
    LePhuronn , 18 April 2011 17:53
    jamesedgeuk2000As im bored I just did the math, 8GB will hold just over 111,848 regular sized emails, nobody should need an archive that big, its just laziness.

    Despite the fact I used it primarily for my freelance work and not only do I get more storage space for free than through my web hosting plans, but Google maintain backups for me too as part of the service.

    OK, I haven't hit 2GB yet, but I have a lot of attachments and client mails from the past number of years, and should any of my local stores fail I know I still have it on GMail.
  • 0 Hide
    ik242 , 18 April 2011 17:54
    "Bill Gates doesn't work on Windows anymore, remember? "

    thank goodness,
    i remember DOS3.3 and everything that followed. NT4 was first glimpse of stable Windows, Win2k was much better and now ... we still cringe at how much space it takes, how slow it is to load etc. But MS OS has come a loooong way...
  • 0 Hide
    acer0169 , 18 April 2011 17:59
    In the last 1 and a half years, my computer has saved just over 9,800 emails which comes to 3.4GB on disk, about 3.0GB in archives. To get 111,000 emails you'd have to never send anything more than text, and never have more than 2-3 replys in each email, keeping the size to 75kb per message. Maybe all your emails are simple messages to friends, but I send / receive between 15-25 business emails a day. My emails aren't huge, but are never one-liners. About 1 in 20 emails will contain an attachment, but never more than 2-3MB.

    It's easy to make numbers like you have, and then say no one will ever hit it. But for the majority of email users (business) that aren't just sending messages to friends, and are actually using emails to send proposals and ideas, along with imagery and files.. 8GB is about 2-4 years worth of emails and nothing more.

    There's a reason businesses often run their own mail servers with several TB of storage for only 100+ people.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 18 April 2011 19:39
    This would be the same guy that said who would ever need more than 640k of memory!!
    For someone that has made so much money his quite short sighted!!
  • 0 Hide
    Rusting In Peace , 18 April 2011 20:56
    For someone that has made so much money his quite short sighted!!

    The two are unrelated. Figuring out all the details is often counter productive to making money.

    As for the article, I don't really blame Bill for thinking this. Few people actually need this amount of email space. The size of gmail was just a hook for people to be interested. People were attracted by the shiny storage size and the lazy thought that they wouldn't have to delete any emails ever again.