Google has announced a significant decision that ceases new signups for its Google Apps service free of charge. Existing users already enrolled in the free service will be able to continue using the service as expected until they either reach 10 users or Google forces them to upgrade sometime in the future.
In a blog post by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, explains that the move is being made in order to focus the quality of the user experience on the needs of paying, business users.
“When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well,” Bavor explains. “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. Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready. ”
Google is now encouraging basic users to sign up to Gmail, storage service Google Drive and its other consumer-facing products, instead of Google Apps. Those that do want to use Google Apps can get the premium version, which remains $5 per user, per month.
Google says that the end of the free version will allow it to focus on providing business-grade service, including 24/7 phone support for issues, a 25GB inbox and its 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.
Stats-wise, more than 5 million businesses are said to use Google Apps, but the overwhelming majority use the free version. The service — both free and paid — is said to be used by more than 40 million users worldwide.
The move to end free usage makes a lot of sense, and has been much expected given the investment Google has made in its consumer-targeted cloud offerings, which includes Dropbox rival Google Drive.
The search giant has increased the linkage between Gmail and Drive lately. Last month it began allowing users to add 10GB of Google Drive files into Gmail emails, and we can expect further alignment of the services going forward.