Web search leader Google Inc. said Wednesday it will soon make it possible for users of its free Gmail service to check their e-mail via Microsoft Outlook or on certain handheld devices such as mobile phones.
Google said it is adding POP, or post office protocol, access to Gmail for all users over the next couple of weeks. The move will enable Gmail users to download a copy of their messages through other e-mail programs, such as Outlook and Eudora, and devices that support POP.
Using POP access, Gmail users would also be able to view their messages offline.
Google said it already provides free automatic forwarding, which enables users to send incoming messages to the e-mail of their choice.
“We have no plans to charge for either feature,” the company said.
Google, which had its much anticipated initial public offering in mid-August, recently has been adding address book and other features to its advertising-supported Gmail service launched this spring.
Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., which compete with Google in Web search, also offer rival free e-mail services.
People can access POP mail accounts for free through Yahoo Mail, but forwarding is available only as part of a premium mail service, a company spokeswoman said.
Representatives of Microsoft’s Hotmail service were not immediately available to comment.