Google announced late Thursday that they will no longer offer the free version of their Apps for Business software suite.  Clay Bavor, Google’s Director of Product Management stated that businesses were outgrowing the free version of Google Apps too quickly, which resulted in growing pains for the businesses down the line.  As a result, Google has made the decision to focus on improving the quality of the user experience for paying customers, with better support.  Business will no longer be allowed to choose the version of Google Apps they think they will need, instead, Google will now require all businesses to purchase the subscription based program suite.

Given that an estimated 40 million people around the world make use of the Google Apps suite the change in policy is likely to cause some alarm, but not everyone should worry just yet.  All preexisting users of the free version of Google Apps for Business, as well as the Education Edition, will continue to have access to the software suite at no additional charge.  However, all new users will be required to either sign up for a basic Gmail account or pay the premium fee for the full version.

While many people will look at the price policy change in a negative light it actually has a lot of merit.  The free version of Google Apps for Business offered only the most basic functionality to customers and as a result, many were dissatisfied with the experience.  Despite the limitations, most businesses were unwilling to upgrade on the basis that it appeared foolish to pay for something you can get for free.  Because of this, customer either made due with an inferior product or would rely heavily on outside programs and support.  Further problems with the free service arose from the fact that it devalued the overall product.  Competitors of the Apps Suite compared themselves to the lowest tier of the product, which both improved their stature and undermines the assumed functionality of Google Apps as a whole.

The price change to Google Apps for Business is unlikely to force a huge paradigm shift for businesses but it should at least guide many in the direction of better support and functionality.  After all, the extra $4.17 a month for the premium service is a small price to pay for business that value the functionality of their business and the security of their data.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department