Google launched Gmail on April Fools Day in 2004. Everyone who read the announcement from Google had a good laugh, only to realize that Gmail was a serious product that dominated the e-mailing service market 15 years later. In 2004, Yahoo and Hotmail were the big players. Google first entered with a free product that was simply much better. Google offered free 1GB space, while Hotmail gave each user 2 MB. Google Gmail was a more simple product that did a better job of connecting people. The search function worked seamlessly. Gmail was a low-end disruptive innovation because it came to serve the bottom of the market. Gmail gradually moved up to serve businesses and organizations.
As Gmail evolved and dominated the market, Google did not become complacent. When Gmail turned 10 years old in 2014, Google launched Inbox, another email app with a completely different feel and user experience from Gmail. Inbox came in and competed directly with Gmail in the low-end market. Inbox was simpler than Gmail with a feel of a to-do list. Inbox bundled multiple emails together into different tags. A user could quickly skim through and mark an entire tag as read. It was a much quicker way of using Gmail. Smart features like auto-suggestion or smart display of files and links attracted many users to use Inbox. Ultimately, Inbox did not work out and Google is closing the service on April 2.
Going forward, Google is incorporating the favorite features from Inbox into a new version of Gmail. The new version of Gmail now is similar to sustaining innovation and still dominates the entire market. Clearly, Google’s strategy fits neatly into the theory of disruptive innovation. As Gmail moved up, Google introduced a new low-end product to test out. The mindset of trial and error and not afraid of killing its own child helps Google survive and thrive as an innovative company