Web search leader Google has begun delivering a set of essential business software tools to paying subscribers, in a move to widen its appeal to corporate customers, the company said on Wednesday.
Google Apps-Premier Edition costs $50 per employee account per year, which covers telephone technical support, up to 10 gigabytes of data storage per user and guarantees that e-mail services will run at least 99.9 percent of the time.
Google Apps, introduced six months ago as a free service, already offers a collection of Web-based programs including Gmail e-mail, a shared calendar program and Google Talk instant messaging. It gives each employee a personalized home page with which to track the latest information from across the Web.
More than 100,000 small businesses use the existing free, advertising-supported Google Apps service, while hundreds of universities around the world already are using a free version of the service that is free of ads, Google officials said.
By breaking with the traditional business software approach of installing software on individual personal computers, Google believes it can attract large numbers of business users that go underserved by the likes of Microsoft, IBM , Oracle or SAP.
Google promises to manage centrally all the technical complexity of e-mail, scheduling and other basic business tasks, reaching for new audiences instead of taking aim at established software franchises such as Microsoft's Office software.
Google Apps-Premier Edition is the new version of the company's Internet software meant to help large organizations incorporate Google tools into the complex management schemes which big businesses use to control their computer networks.
Google said all three editions of Google Apps now include Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which allows teams of users to collaborate online in writing and editing word processing or spreadsheet documents. Apps now allow company Gmail users to read their e-mail on Blackberry mobile e-mail phone devices.
Potential Google Apps customers include retail store clerks, customer service phone operators and manufacturing workers -- jobs where companies are often reluctant to equip with more expensive computer systems, said Dave Girouard, vice president of Google's business unit, in an interview.
Besides English, Google Apps is available in languages including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.