"Free" was a fearsome price point and it helped companies, small ones at first, start thinking the unthinkable: Maybe there's an alternative to paying for Microsoft Office.
"Free" opened doors, even if it became clear in 2007 that Google hoped businesses would prefer paying $50 per user per year for Google Apps Premier Edition, which subsequently was rebranded Google Apps for Business.
As of Thursday, Google Apps is no longer available at no cost. The free lunch has ended: You get what you pay for because you can't get what you didn't pay for.
That is, unless you already have it: Companies currently using the free version of Google Apps can continue to do so under the same terms.
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"When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well," explained Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, in a blog post. "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."
Bavor says businesses quickly run up against the limitations of the free version and usually want premium features like 24/7 customer support.
Individuals will be able to continue using Google's Web apps, like Drive, Gmail and Docs at no cost through their Google Accounts. Businesses will be expected to pay for Google Apps for Business.
Google will continue to offer Google Apps for Education to schools at no charge, while Google Apps for Government will continue to be available at the same price as Google's business-oriented offering, $50 per user per year.