Let’s take things dockside
Google have added a very cool feature to Gmail Labs today called “Unread message icon”. The new addition basically renders a favicon image which displays the number of emails you have yet to read. Those readers savvy enough to be using Chrome with the “Google Mail Checker” may be wondering why this is of interest to them, seeing as this appears to duplicate a feature that is already present in the aforementioned extension. One of the cool things about this new Lab is that it pays attention to what type of inbox you are in, i.e. Priority or Standard. The second cool thing is that it isn’t Chrome limited, with Firefox 2 is also supported.
The new Lab feature is clever but Google really needs to do more. Both Mac and Windows provide in-dock notification systems, why can’t I register to receive notifications there? I know the standardised Notifications API is fragmented across platforms (at this point of time I think you need to Growl for Notifications to work on Mac OS and Windows supports it natively?), but why can’t you make use of what you currently have in the in-dock space. This is one of the limitations of using Gmail as my email client, I need to be in the browser to know if I receive an email (Google Notifier people shutup, I don’t want another menu icon). Also if I receive an IM via Gmail’s GoogleTalk, I should be notified dockside too.
[Update 27/01/2011] Google just announced that Gmail is now making use of the Notifications API. Even better than the favicon, especially for chats, but I still think dock based notifications in Gmail is the ultimate. Similar to how iChat and Mail alert the user to new emails and IMs.