Google Apps for Business appears to be gaining critical mass. Google will now charge for workgroups of 10 people using Google Apps, although small workgroups already using the cloud-based productivity tools can keep using them for free.
This change indicates that Google is treating Apps for Business as a real business albeit a tiny one compared to the company’s huge search operation. According to a Wall Street Journal report the company sold $1 billion worth of Google Apps for Business last year — a contention Google would not confirm. That amount is itty bitty compared to the multiple billions Microsoft earns on its Office juggernaut annually but is still a respectable number if true. For its FY 2011, ending last June, Microsoft Business Division — which includes Office – generated $21.99 billion in revenue.
At Google I/O in June, Google said it had 5 million Google Apps business customers but did not break out paid versus unpaid.
The news of changes to the Google Apps sales plan was posted on the Google Enterprise blog late Thursday. According to the post, people wanting to keep using freebies can create personal accounts for Gmail and Google Drive. But even small businesses may opt Google Apps for Business for $50 per user per year, in return for which they get phone support, 25 GB of storage and service level agreements of 99.9 percent.
It’s unclear what impact, if any, Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 is having on Google Apps adoption.
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