Paying customers of Google Apps just got a big new benefit: Google is now offering phone and email support when users access Google Apps through Google's Chrome Web browser.
"The Chrome browser helps businesses get onto the Web securely and quickly—and today, we’re adding phone and email support for Chrome for Google Apps customers," wrote Fred Beckebanze, manager of Google's Apps Technical Solutions Engineers, in an Oct. 2 post on the Google Enterprise Blog. "Moving forward, Google Apps for Business, Education and Government customers may contact Google via phone or email to receive support on Chrome installation, functionality, security, browser policy settings and Google Apps interoperability for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux."
The phone and email support is for paying customers of Google Apps using Chrome. Paid Google Apps for Business accounts start at $5 per user for monthly accounts, or are available on an annual basis starting at $50 per user. Customers with standard free Google Apps accounts are not eligible for phone or email support but can continue to use Google's free online help services and forums, according to the company.
Using Google Apps through the Chrome browser provides user features such as offline document editing, desktop notifications and home screen apps, wrote Beckebanze.
"If your organization uses a legacy app that isn’t compatible with Chrome, we suggest adopting a dual-browser strategy," he wrote. "The costs of using an old browser can range from reduced speed and feature gaps to exposure to critical security holes—far greater than the costs of supporting a second browser."
In September, Google announced that Google Apps users won't be able to access the office apps suite using Microsoft's older Internet Explorer 8 browser after Nov. 14. Instead, they will have to upgrade to a newer IE browser under its continuing strategy to keep its products up-to-date and working seamlessly with the latest evolving features in newer Web browsers.
"As we announced last year, we support the latest version of Google Chrome (which automatically updates whenever it detects that a new version of the browser is available) as well as the current and prior major release of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis," Google officials said in a blog post about the change. "Each time a new version of one of these browsers is released, we begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version."
Because Microsoft previously announced that its newest Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) browser will debut Oct. 26, Google will drop support of the older IE8 version Nov. 15, according to the post. "After this date users accessing Google Apps services using Internet Explorer 8 will see a message recommending that they upgrade their browser."
The current IE9 version of the browser will be supported by Google Apps until a future IE11 is released.
The changes will affect users of Google Apps and Google Apps for Business, Education and Government, according to Google.
The Google Apps policy of supporting only the latest browsers began in June 2011 as big changes were beginning to arrive from new Web standards, such as HTML5.
The new changes mean that users who are still running older browsers and even older computer operating systems will have to make decisions on what to do if they want to continue to use Google Apps.
For users who are still running Windows XP machines, IE8 is the last of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers that will run on the soon-to-be-retired operating system. IE9 and the upcoming IE10 weren't built to operate on XP.
That means that Windows XP users—and there are still plenty of them out there—will have to upgrade their operating systems if they want to keep using Google Apps.