In February 2007, Google turned heads when it launched GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition), a paid version of its Apps suite for enterprises that includes extra security, 24/7 phone support, 99.999 percent availability (which was severely tested last month with a few outages) and other perks such as API access.
Since that time, Google has frustrated journalists and analysts by laying claim to 3,000 new business customers per day, now totaling more than 500,000 businesses ranging from one-man businesses to large installations such as Sanmina Sci and other enterprises.
But the company has been famously mum about how many paid customers it has for its $50 per user, per year GAPE portfolio. No longer. With today's announcement of Google Video for businesses, Google is formally announcing that it now has hundreds of thousands of paid customers.
To my mind, that's somewhere between 300,000 and 700,000 users who are being charged for GAPE. Not a bad figure, but nothing compared to the millions of Microsoft SharePoint users.
I asked Matthew Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise, if that was a new metric. He told me:
""I think we've shared it with a couple people. We’re getting asked about it more and more so we figured we'd be forthcoming about it.""
And why not? Most people scoff that Google Apps will make a dent in Microsoft's prodigious productivity and collaboration software market share. If Google has accrued hundreds of thousands of paid users in roughly a year and a half since launching, then it should serve notice that businesses are interested in what Google had to offer.
Now if only Google can correct its outage issues from last month and get back to the 99.999 percent availability it promises with GAPE.
Yes, there is still work to be done in the cloud to make it more reliable. But Google's approximate, albeit vague figure for GAPE users is a sign that people are willing to pay for SAAS (software as a service) collaboration suites.