Google Apps Free Version For Small Businesses No Longer Available
December 7, 2012

Google Apps Free Version For Small Businesses No Longer Available

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

The company´s unofficial motto might be “don´t be evil” but what are small business owners who use Google Apps to think about the search engine giant´s latest move, that quietly killed the free version of Google Apps for Business.

Late Thursday in a blog post by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, the company offered the following information:

“Google Apps started with the simple idea that Gmail could help businesses and schools work better together without the hassles of managing software and servers. As we grew from a handful of customers to a few hundred, we expanded to offer a premium business version of Google Apps. Fast forward to today and Google Apps is used by millions of businesses. We´ve also added versions for governments, universities and schools.”

But what does this mean exactly? Well for one businesses with 10 or fewer employees will be charged $50 a year, the same rate paid by larger businesses, to use the Web-based tools, which include e-mail, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation graphic tools.

Bavor also clarified two other points, first that “individuals wishing to use Google´s web apps like Gmail and Google Drive should create a free personal Google Account, which provides a seamless experience across all of our web services on any device.” But more importantly this shouldn´t impact existing customers, including those using the free version.

Google Apps for Education will remain free for schools and universities, so perhaps this is where the search giant can maintain that it isn´t being evil.

So what exactly will the paid version get those small businesses? For one it will get round-the-clock telephone support and a 25GB inbox. Subscriptions to Google Apps and its separate mapping service for businesses and governments have reportedly been serious money makers.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal from a year ago Google had generated around $1 billion from the sale of Google Apps and its mapping software. The company reportedly had more than 5 million business users, but a majority had fewer than 10 employees and thus were using the free version.

No doubt that is why Google made its policy change this week, as now even those small businesses may have to pay. And this isn´t the first time Google has changed its policies on the matter. Prior to 2011 only businesses with more than 50 employees were charged for the suite of services.

Google maintains that this isn´t really an evil move either and will be able to provide better 24/7 customer support along with those larger inboxes.

Google Apps was created in 2006 after a series of acquisitions and development at Google. This included the free Gmail email service, and while the company hasn´t disclosed how many subscribers the service has, it is widely believed to now be the most popular free email service for individuals.

It had been predicted that Google Apps could loosen Microsoft´s profitable stranglehold over office software, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph. However, Microsoft Office remains Microsoft´s most lucrative product, and has 90 percent market share.

Despite this domination Microsoft has seemingly taken notice of Google Apps cloud-based offerings as Microsoft has added its own online features in response.