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7/7/2009
08:00 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google Apps Graduates From Beta

Bowing to pressure from its enterprise clients, Google has finally removed the beta label from Google Apps. For Gmail, the oldest component of Google Apps, this marks the end of over five years in beta.

Bowing to pressure from its enterprise clients, Google has finally removed the beta label from Google Apps. For Gmail, the oldest component of Google Apps, this marks the end of over five years in beta.The beneficiaries of this change will be Google's growing number of business customers -- 1.75 million companies, including its latest large convert to the cloud, Fairchild Semiconductor. With the removal of the beta "scarlet letter," companies can finally rest assured that Google Apps is 100% bug free.

Okay, not really. But at least IT managers will no longer have to worry that an annoyed exec will choose to make an issue of the decision to rely on "unfinished software" when there's a Gmail outage.

There used to be a saying that no one ever lost a job by recommending IBM. Later on, that saying worked with Microsoft in place of IBM. And now Google is aiming to be mentioned in the modern update of that sentiment.

"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," said Matthew Glotzbach, director of enterprise product management, in a blog post. "So we've focused our efforts on reaching our high bar for taking products out of beta, and all the applications in the Apps suite have now met that mark."

The removal of the beta label on the Google Apps suite -- Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk -- also brings the announcement of two upcoming features for corporate customers: e-mail delegation, which allows administrators to screen e-mail and send it on others' behalf, and e-mail retention, which allows administrators to set retention policies.

While business users may welcome the end of beta, I find it sad that Google has had to bend to corporate convention. Everyone familiar with Google knows that the beta designation doesn't really mean much. To get a sense of how little the term means, consider how many times Microsoft patches officially released software. The reality is that most commercial software is in beta as long as it's used.

Google's insistence on labeling its software as beta gave the company character. It's one of those tech industry anomalies, like Apple's refusal to make a two-button mouse or to provide an enterprise product roadmap, that just seems to fit after a while.

Now Google is all grown up and serious.

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