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Google to charge to keep balls in the air

Adds Docs & Spreadsheet to Apps, spells out SLA

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Google will try to chill Microsoft’s post-Office launch glow today, adding Docs & Spreadsheets to its apps suite and pitching a pay per seat version of the bundle to corporate customers.

Google will charge companies, or individuals, $50 a seat per year for its Google Apps Premier Edition suite. Likes its free stable mate, PE now contains Google Docs & Spreadsheets, as well as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and the Google customizable Start Page feature. Unlike Microsoft, Google seems to have a working currency converter, with UK punters being charged £26 a seat.

For the $50 PE fee, you also get 10GB of storage, compared to the free version’s 2GB. The fee also buys you APIs to hook the suite into existing corporate systems, so admins can still control provisioning, data migration, single sign-on etc. 24x7 support is included, including phone support for administrators, and this is all tied up with a 99.9 per cent uptime promise.

Crucially, advertising is optional in PE. It'll be turned off as standard, though we we’d love to hear of a reason why any company would want turn it on.

The bundling of Google Docs & Spreadsheets comes in the wake of Microsoft's Office and Vista launches. But the company's initial pitch seems to be more around the comms and collaboration features of the suite. Robert Whiteside, Google's head of enterprise in the UK, said something like 50 per cent of employees do not have email, with companies like retailers having few ways to communication with their workforces without spending a lot of money of computers and software from, well, you know.

Whiteside insisted that companies wouldn't worry about their data being Google-ized and then sent to reside somewhere in the Google cloud, saying “The benefit of taking away the management challenge [of maintaining the data] is only the start of it.” Corporates are already happily outsourcing systems and data anyhow, he added.

Early adopters include GE and Proctor and Gamble, which are running beta programs on “point projects“ in the US. Salesforce.com is also listed as an early adopter, though if Google turned up at the hosted CRM vendor touting the removal desktop apps, it'd be hard for the firm to refuse to wave the flag.

Also today, Google Apps will include Gmail for Mobile on the Blackberry. Whiteside said the firm intended to roll out dedicated mobile support to other mobile devices in the future.®

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