As of today, anyone wanting to use Google’s suite of business applications will have to pay for the privilege of doing so, after the web company announced that it was doing away with the free version for new users.
Up until now, businesses with 10 employees of less could gain access to Google Apps for Business, which includes services such as email, spreadsheet, word processor and presentation graphics tools just by signing up. Those companies already using the free version will not be forced to sign up for the premium package, says Google, but any new businesses will have to pay $50 per year, per user, if they wish to do so.
Google’s Clay Bavor says that the decision was made so that it can focus on delivering a better quality experience to its business users, improving aspects such as support and developing new tools.
“When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well. Both businesses and individuals signed up for this version, but time has shown that in practice, the experience isn’t quite right for either group. Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready,” explains Bavor in a blog post.
No doubt some people will be upset, but the move has probably been a long time coming given Google’s efforts to improve consumer-focused apps such as Google Drive.
Naturally some will probably argue that Google’s latest move is being motivated by greed, but if it is, it’s an interesting gamble by the company. Admittedly, Google made a tidy $1 billion profit from its business users last year, so the demand for its apps is there, but it remains to be seen if small businesses will be happy to pay $50 a year for them given their rather limited capabilities.
There are many cheaper alternatives than Google Apps for Business, including Microsoft’s and Adobe’s desktop software, and also cloud-based apps like DriveHQ, which offers a far more complete IT service than Google’s, and costs much less at just $6 per year, per user.