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8/12/2011
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Google Apps Update May Hint At Google+ Integration

Does the new look for Gmail, Calendar, and Docs mean Google's business users will soon get access to profiles and Google+?

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In an email to Google Apps administrators, Google has announced the rollout of new features across the company's premier business services that could signal the impending addition of profiles and, by extension, Google+ for businesses. The new features are rolling out on a staggered basis, depending on which release track a Google Apps customer subscribes to.

"Over the next months, Google is rolling out a new look and feel across its products," read the emailed announcement, "including Google Apps services such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Sites."

At this time, Google Apps users with consumer, rapid release, and scheduled release tracks have access to a new theme. New for premium business customers, anyway. Everyone else will recognize it as the same unified design the company announced in June. The update also brings Apps users the refreshed design and shortcuts announced last week on the Google Docs blog.

Significantly, the new look brings Google's business apps more in line with the look and feel of Google's consumer services, which may lead many business customers to wonder whether the company is gearing up for a release of its Profiles feature for business accounts. Profiles is a necessary component of Google+, the company's popular new social network.

When Google+ launched in late June, the company asked businesses to refrain from opening accounts for their brands, promising to launch business-specific accounts at an unspecified future time. About one month later, Google booted business brand pages off the social network in a move that sparked more than a little outrage and indignation.

While Google has made no specific announcements about when businesses can expect to get access to Profiles and Google+, the company has said that it is testing these features with a select group of companies. Meanwhile, the pace of new feature deployment on the service seems to be picking up, and the disparity between the interface consumers see and that which business users see is rapidly diminishing.

Right now, however, the company is saying little about its progress toward making Google+ available for all. "Google+ is not yet available to Google Apps users, but we're working hard to bring the features of Google+ to Apps users in the future. In the meantime, if you want to use Google+ during field trial, you can use an existing personal Google Account or create a new Google Account with a Gmail address or a non-Google Apps email address," said a statement on a Help Center page for Apps users.

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