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Google Apps Gets Serious, Drops Beta Tag

Google took a step toward greater enterprise adoption of its hosted e-mail, document and collaboration services today by removing the "beta" tag from its Google Apps brand.

"We have taken a razor-sharp focus on removing barriers to hosted solutions for the enterprise this year, and today we took the beta tag question right off the table," said Andrew Kovacs, a Google spokesperson, in a phone interview.

Enterprise IT shops may typically see "betas" as test software with bugs or features to fix -- not as something to run live on the network. However, Google has its own view.

"We have a unique definition of the term beta, but it basically amounts to products meeting very high internal standards," Kovacs said.

After a review of the suite just last week, it was determined that all the applications within the offering have met Google beta standards, according to Kovacs. The Google Apps suite includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk.

In addition to removing the beta tags from the offerings, Google also announced some additional features for the enterprise, including mail delegation, mail retention and some reliability enhancements, according to a Google blog.

The suite of Google Apps has been growing since Gmail was introduced more than five years ago. In February of 2007, Google launched the Premier Edition, which was the first, and only to date, to have a per-seat cost.

The original Standard Edition is still available for free for under 50 seats per shop. A TechCrunch article noted that the 50 seats number is actually scaled back from 200 users. The article also noted a brief glitch today where the free Google Apps page had temporarily disappeared.

Google offers an EDU Edition of Google Apps, which is available for free to colleges and universities. Microsoft has also entered the academic space, providing a free hosted e-mail service called Live@edu, which is currently being tested at various higher education institutions.

The on-campus presence of the two software companies may set the stage for a schoolyard brawl of sorts.

"Both Google and Microsoft hosted offerings are sweeping across campuses in the U.S. It's really a two-dog race," Kovacs said.

Kovacs contended that Google Apps has been a success story so far. There are hundreds of thousands of Premier Edition users, he said. Examples include Washington, D.C., with 38,000 users, along with French auto parts manufacturer Valeo, with 32,000 users.

Google has worked hard to remove other barriers to enterprise adoption, Kovacs said. The company added enterprise-grade contacts and off-line access -- even integration with Microsoft Exchange and Blackberry servers.

"There are still some IT personnel out there that just want to go out and hug a server," Kovacs said. "But, for the most part, we've removed the barriers from hosted services. We certainly believe in our cloud offerings, and see Google Apps as the next huge success for Google."

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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