I don’t like to call myself a fanboy of any product, but it’s rare to see Google make something that’s just wrong. Occasionally they release something a little too soon (Wave), or it doesn’t have all the right features for what I need at the time (Orkut), but they normally make decisions that are very hard to argue against when developing their software.
That being said, I almost never use Google Chat in the built-in gmail interface. I have too many tabs open, with test sites, ticket tracking systems, and internal tools all running at once. Important chat messages are lost all the time. Instead, I tend to use Pidgin (since I’m a Linux user, but there are several other desktop clients available for all operating systems). Pidgin pops up nice little system notifications and plays a nice little chime whenever I’m available, and I don’t have to go hunting around for the message… it’s right there in my notification bar (like a start menu).
When I checked my email this morning, I noticed that Gmail had a new feature called “Desktop Notifications for Emails and Chat Notifications“. Essentially, it’s an html5 feature (if you’re using Chrome, it’ll work for you) that allows the browser to tell your operating system that there’s a new message without having to install anything but Chrome. While my chat client is pretty firmly ingrained into my daily workflow, and I’d be afraid of accidentally closing my Gmail tab and missing important notifications, I can see this becoming the feature that sets Gmail ahead of the pack, just as other email clients were starting to catch up.
Good job, Gmail team.