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Google has announced a package that will offer email, calendar, instant messaging and web-page creation services.

Google Apps for Your Domain is a free service that bundles together the US internet giant's existing services - Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator. The announcement sees Google stepping up the competition with Microsoft, which already offers packages such as Outlook and Exchange that provide email, address book and calendar software.

The Google bundle is designed to provide these services via the internet, removing the need to manage any software or hardware for the services. The service is aimed at small businesses, students, and non profit organisations.

Google plans to release a fee-based version of the service aimed at larger companies by the end of the year: this version will include extra data storage and technical support.

For its part, Microsoft is currently testing an internet-based service targeted at small businesses called Office Live, which includes email, web page hosting and group calendar services.

Analysts believe competition between the two giants could intensify further if Google decides to add its online spreadsheet, Google Spreadsheets, and word-processing, Google Notebook, applications to its Google Apps for Your Domain.

Google Enterprise general manager Dave Girouard told the Wall Street Journal that these applications were "really good candidates" to become part of the package in the future.

This latest move follows Google's link up with Microsoft rivals Mozilla, Adobe and RealNetworks earlier this year. Together, these companies are offering a software package with services that are also provided by Microsoft such as web browsing, a media player, and a toolbar.

Google has announced an advertising link up with eBay. Under the terms of the partnership Google will begin selling ads on the online auction site and help eBay customers make quick calls to online merchants. The arrangement will introduce click-to-call technology to a broader audience using both Skype, which is owned by eBay, and Google Talk. Click-to-call allows potential buyers to call up sellers by clicking a link in a Web page.

"By combining the power of eBay in ecommerce and Skype in communications with Google's leadership in search and advertising, we can increase the usefulness of the internet for shoppers, merchants and advertisers around the world," eBay chief executive Meg Whitman said.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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