Something to be thankful to Microsoft for: Google will apparently phase out reading emails for targeted advertising.

Microsoft’s O365 is Google’s biggest competitor in the corporate email hosting space, and one of the biggest reasons companies pick O365 is because Microsoft doesn’t hang a skeevy-as-fuck ad platform off of it.1 Google’s approach works for personal use and for small businesses and start-ups (who’re more worried about not spending money than privacy), but Microsoft’s is more popular in large business, government, and education, all of whom tend to place more emphasis on data privacy and sovereignty.

Whether or not the privacy issues with Google’s email ads are a real or invented problem is sort of moot. The fact that people perceive there’s an issue there means more are moving to competitor platforms, specifically Microsoft and Apple. The latter hasn’t aggressively pursued the enterprise market, but every now and again there are rumblings that they might be thinking about it, particularly in the small- to medium-business end. Apple arguably has the weakest SaaS offering of the three–which isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just that Microsoft and Google’s are so much better–but does have both the highest hardware satisfaction rate and the most vocally strong stance on privacy. Microsoft doesn’t sell its privacy angle as hard as Apple does, and they’ve had a few public gaffes, but they’re pretty solid on it, particularly around enterprise.2 In other words, both companies are using privacy as a market differentiator and, from the looks of it, not just succeeding but forcing Google to play catch-up.

Either way, for once this almost looks like a good news story on the user end. Huh.

  1. The other reason is vendor lock-in–it’s relatively easy to move an existing on-premise Exchange set-up to O365–and the other other reason is because Microsoft is much better at playing ball with local certification and regulation requirements than Google is. In other words, Microsoft positions itself, not incorrectly, as the low-risk option. []
  2. Most of the “phone home” settings people don’t like in, say, Windows 10 are easy to turn off en masse via Group Policy, which every organisation does. []