Lifehacker offers up an excellent comparison of Microsoft Outlook (traditional desktop email application) and Gmail (cloud computing Web-based email service):

Being digital vagabonds without an Exchange server, we Lifehacker writers use online apps like Gmail and Google Calendar to get things done. But can an Outlook user make the switch without losing out? Guest contributor Jared Goralnick's here today to take a look.

This is exactly the move I made a year ago, so yeah, it can be done. But hopefully this guide will serve as an interesting push for those who are still on the fence. I feel very strongly that, while Outlook is excellent software for what it is, it is also the way things used to be done. The world is moving on, and Gmail is a pointer to that future.

Gmail launched in 2004 and has matured each year, but Microsoft Outlook (with Exchange) is still the most popular tool for accessing email. Comparing the two side by side, is it time to jump ship from either platform? Let's find out.

Outlook and Gmail are very different approaches to email organization. Over time, Google has begun to add more features and Microsoft has improved its search and scaled-down complex features. They have very different and very apparent roots, but things are changing.

I personally use Outlook for business correspondence and managing responsibilities, and Gmail for social media and most web activities. Some people combine their activities and choose just one email application, and that's fine, too.

If one thing is clear, it's that Gmail has become an increasingly mature product that can be used for business. With the Postini acquisition, Google is beginning to offer enterprise-level services (like compliance archiving, service level agreements, and more comprehensive spam policies). I foresee the addition of tasks and integration with the Google Search Appliance positioning Google squarely against Microsoft.

Agreed. If you can get over the presumed "AOL-ness" of a Web mail solution, and you should, you'll be surprised by how good Gmail is.