Will The Enterprise Love Non-Beta Google Apps?

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The four pillars of Google Apps -Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Talk are no longer in beta. Will this finally remove the barrier to enterprise adoption of Google’s cloud productivity tools?

Google has taken its core cloud service, Google Apps, out of beta. It also announced a big customer – Fairchild Semiconductor – has moved across from IBM Lotus Notes.

Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk are now out of beta, more than two years after Google created the SAAS (software as a service) suite as an alternative to on-premise solutions such as Microsoft’s Office and SharePoint collaboration software. These applications join Google Sites and Google Video for business as more polished products.

Meanwhile, Fairchild Semiconductor has moved its 5,500 employees to Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) from IBM Lotus Notes, forming a coup for Google’s growing effort in cloud computing.

Google hosts Google Apps on its own servers (but we think it could do better to allow the software on customer premises). Users access standard editions of Google Apps for free, but businesses can pay $50 per user per year for GAPE, which includes a service-level agreement, greater security, 24/7 support and more storage, among other features.

“Google Apps is becoming less of the early adopter decision and is really now starting to hit that mainstream point,” Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google’s enterprise group, told eWEEK. “We’ve come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn’t fit for large enterprises that aren’t keen to run their business on software that sounds like it’s still in the trial phase.”

Glotzbach, who said 1.75 million businesses are using Google Apps, counts the October 2008 migration of Genentech’s 17,000 employees to Google Apps as a key milestone for the platform. At that point, Google put a “laser focus” on smashing the remaining barriers to broader adoption to Google Apps in businesses, he said.

This is a crucial move if Google is to poach more customers from Microsoft and IBM, the largest collaboration competitors. Google is also competing with Cisco and several smaller SAAS players, including Zoho.

New features – offline access, Outlook and Blackberry

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To ratchet up its play to grab more paying customers, Google in January added offline access to Gmail. This functionality is a boon to corporate road warriors who travel and need to access their e-mail data while flying or in other areas where there is no Web access.

For GAPE customers, Google in May added Google Apps Connect for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (review). This plug-in lets GAPE customers access e-mail and global address lists from the cloud to the corrFairchild esponding apps on managed BlackBerry mobile devices.This is also huge for company employees on the road.