Gmail, other Google apps, out of beta

Gmail is out of beta. After five years and plenty of industry snickering and corporate complaining, Google announced Tuesday the online messaging service is now an official “shipping” product.

Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk were all stripped of their beta tags Tuesday as Google upgraded the pieces of its Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite to the status of a finished product.

Google Sites and Google Video for Business have already lost their beta tags.

Google also announced that it is adding other enterprise features including replication of messaging data stores among various Google data centers. In the coming weeks, Google will add the ability to delegate e-mail accounts to assistants, and the capability to set e-mail retention policies.

All of those features and services are being added without an increase to the $50 per user fee for GAPE, Google officials said.

“For too many companies looking at commercial Gmail, the beta label was like a blinking neon light that flashed “amateur, amateur…,” said Matt Cain, an analyst with Gartner. “Companies did not want to engage a vendor that forced them to put their most mission-critical communication channel on a piece of beta code. Removing the beta label removes one of the major hurdles Google had to overcoming corporate resistance.”

While Google claims the move is just semantics, it acknowledges that the “beta” tag was making corporate users uneasy and often unwilling to commit.

“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,” Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise, said in a blog post Tuesday.

Even with most of its corporate-focused applications in beta, however, Google did not stand still. It acquired Postini in 2007 for $625 million to answer corporate needs for e-mail security. Google added in the past six months offline support for Gmail and calendars, BlackBerry access, contact list integration and support for Outlook client software.

And Google signed up major customers such as Genentech, which put 17,000 users on Gmail in 2008, and Fairchild Semiconductor, which recently migrated 5,500 seats from Lotus Notes to GAPE.

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