Google has launched Google Apps for Your Domain, a suite of hosted collaboration applications for small to medium-size businesses, universities, groups and affinity organizations, with plans to expand to larger companies by year's end.
Organizations will be able to sign up for the beta version of the free browser-based, hosted-application service online. The service for larger companies won't be free, with details regarding what it will entail and the pricing structure to be announced when the roll-out date is set.
The free offering will include Gmail and Google's Calendar, Talk, and Page Creator applications, all of which have either been rolled out in recent months or which the company has been integrating with each other this year.
A Full-Fledged Office Suite?
More applications will be added over time, said Matthew Glotzbach, head of products for Google's enterprise division.
He wouldn't elaborate on what those applications might be, but Google's online word processor and spreadsheet are likely targets to become part of the hosted collaboration suite. Google isn't publicly talking about whom it sees as the competition either, but the suite seems squarely aimed at, for instance, IBM's Notes collaboration software.
"We're trying to take a new look at what it means to collaborate," said Rajen Sheth, product manager for Google Apps for Your Domain. "There are obvious competitors out there, but I think people will see this as a fresh look."
That look, while hosted by Google, will be accessed at the Internet domains of businesses, universities, and organizations that sign up for it. All of the suite applications will have a user interface based on AJAX and be branded for individual organizations, with the same logos and color schemes used at the domain. While the e-mail will be Gmail, it will remain a domain address.
The intent is to allow companies and organizations access to collaboration applications even if they can't afford internal IT support or don't want to devote IT resources to those tasks, with the aim of "really driving down the cost and the maintenance," Glotzbach said.
The premium version will offer more support, as well as service level agreements and what he described as "richer integration" of applications with the domain. "We're very serious about this space," he said.
Ever since the launch of Gmail, Google has collected feedback from small to medium-size businesses and universities, in particular, regarding that application and it has also been beta testing Gmail for Your Domain for awhile. Google Apps for Your Domain is an extension of that, Glotzbach said.