Google's Inbox by Gmail will come to small group of business users in March

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Inbox by Gmail is headed to paying companies that use Google Apps for Work, but the rollout will be very slow. After first launching for regular Gmail users in October, Google says a select group of companies will be able to test out Inbox in March as part of a new early adopter program. Any Google Apps for Work customers can apply for the beta program by sending an email to inboxforwork@google.com from an Apps administrator account.

Inbox is Google’s new approach to Gmail that tries to surface the most essential messages you need and put everything else in the background. The regular Gmail app offers something similar with its message categories such as Social and Promotions. But Inbox is more aggressive about the emails it notifies you about and the ones it doesn’t.

Google says it is looking for Apps users to help optimize Inbox for the workplace by getting feedback on users’ “needs, challenges, and use cases.” Not all who apply will get in right away, but Google says it will add more Apps users in the coming months after the first round of invites go out.

The story behind the story: Gmail is one of Google’s marquee products for business users, and Google has high hopes that Inbox will make email more efficient in the work place—something that is sorely needed. While the majority of the business world is still mired in email accounts, some companies are starting to avoid the inefficiency of email for internal communication with tools such as Slack and Hipchat.  Email still has its advantages—such as being an open standard that is not under the control of one company—but spam and a never-ending stream of “urgent” messages can make email a less than ideal solution for some.

First to pay, last to play

Inbox is one of many apps and features that take a long time to become available to business users. Apps for Work users can sometimes get frustrated by this, but it makes sense for Google to test new stuff and work out any problems with non-paying users before rolling out to businesses. The anticipation for Inbox has been particularly pronounced, because that app has been so well received by critics.

Not everyone loves Google’s attempt to redefine the Gmail experience, however. Our own Mark Hachman is one of those less than impressed with Inbox. He criticized the app for poor message organization and duplicating a lot of what the Gmail smartphone app already does.

But as others who like the app have said, Hachman believes Inbox has a few essentials worth keeping around, such as the ability to snooze emails. 

Google hasn’t said when Inbox will be available to all Apps users. But that day is probably many months away, considering that free users still have to get an invite to try out Inbox.

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