Google Apps Exits Beta, Poaches Fairchild Semiconductor from IBM

Google Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Talk exit beta for Google Apps, potentially removing a major barrier to the adoption of Google Apps in the enterprise as a messaging and collaboration platform. Also, Fairchild Semiconductor dumps Lotus Notes for Google Apps. With these moves, Google hopes more business customers will choose its pay-for GAPE service over suites from Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and others.

Google July 7 took its core Google Apps out of beta and said Fairchild Semiconductor has moved its 5,500 employees to Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) from IBM Lotus Notes, the latest coup for the company's growing effort in cloud computing.

Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk are now out of beta more than two years after Google created the SAAS (software as a service) suite as an alternative to on-premise to Microsoft's Office and SharePoint collaboration software. These applications join Google Sites and Google Video for business as more polished products.

Google hosts Google Apps on its own servers. Users access standard editions of Google Apps for free, but businesses can pay $50 per user, per year for GAPE, which includes a service-level agreement, greater security, 24/7 support and more storage, among other perks.

"Google Apps is becoming less of the early adopter decision and is really now starting to hit that mainstream point," Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google's enterprise group, told eWEEK. "We've come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn't fit for large enterprises that aren't keen to run their business on software that sounds like it's still in the trial phase."

Glotzbach, who said 1.75 million businesses are using Google Apps, counts the October 2008 migration of Genentech's 17,000 employees to Google Apps as a key milestone for the platform. At that point, Google put a "laser focus" on smashing the remaining barriers to broader adoption to Google Apps in businesses, he said.

This is a crucial move if Google is to poach more customers from Microsoft and IBM, the largest collaboration competitors. Google is also competing with Cisco and several smaller SAAS players, including Zoho.

To ratchet up its play to grab more paying customers, Google in January added offline access to Gmail. This functionality is a boon to corporate road warriors who travel and need to access their e-mail data while flying or in other areas where there is no Web access.