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Google Apps For Your Domain Gains New Start Page

Individuals and organizations can use Start Page to aggregate users' favorite apps on a single Web page.

Google today began offering a personalized Start Page to users of Google Apps for Your Domain, the company's private-labeled e-mail, IM, and calendar service for individuals and organizations that want to run Google software under their own Web address.

Much like the Google Personalized Homepage, to which users can add content modules, Google Gadgets—lightweight applications like To Do Lists that can be added to a Web page—and RSS feeds that reflect the information they want to see, Start Page aims to aggregate users' favorite apps and publications on a single Web page.

"What the Start Page is, as the name suggests, is a place where our users are going to start to use the Google Apps for Your Domain Services like e-mail and calendar," says Raju Gulabani, director of product management at Google. "This is also the place where organizations have an opportunity to provide other content and services, both internal and external, that might be relevant to their users."

Currently, Start Page includes Google's Gmail, Calendar, Talk, and Page Creator applications. Additional apps will be added in the future.

Since the introduction of Google Apps for Your Domain in August, Google has seen "tremendous interest" from individuals, universities, and businesses small and large, says Gulabani. He points to Arizona State University and Flash, a broadband ISP service offered by Argentine media company Clarin Group, as two recent converts to the service.

A Start Page benefits organizations, says Google product manager Mike Horowitz, because personalized content is more engaging to users, which in turn provides a communications channel for organizational communications that's less likely to be ignored. "As users go to this page to engage with their e-mail and calendar, it presents a great opportunity for organizations to deliver specific information to them," he says.

But the Start Page isn't an enterprise portal, Horowitz insists. "If you remember back 10 years ago, companies invested millions of dollars creating proprietary portals with specific information," he says. "This is not a portal. It's not a walled garden experience."

It's not an entirely open garden either. Administrators have the ability to lock the left-hand column of the page to prevent users from removing content modules that display organizational information such as employee resource links.

[UPDATE: Nov. 15 In paragraph five, a standalone refenence to Clarin was clarified to indicate that the second user of interest is Flash, a broadband ISP service offered by Argentine media company Clarin Group.]

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