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Dec 7 2012   7:00PM GMT

Google gets rid of free cloud apps for small businesses

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Technology solution providers representing the Microsoft Office 365 cloud applications suite for small businesses should take note of a huge change in the competitive landscape.

This week, Microsoft rival Google stopped offering a free version of its Google Apps for small businesses, saying that new customers will need to opt for the Premium edition, which costs $50 per user per year. Features of that service include 24/7 phone support, a 25-gigabyte inbox and a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.

The changes means Microsoft partners will be able to discuss the two services on a more level playing field.

The blog post about the change (written by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps) suggests that this change will enable Google to concentrate on adding new value and capabilities into its services. “With focus, we’ll be able to do even more for our business customers,” Bavor writes.

That may be true over time. More immediately, it gives Microsoft partners an opportunity to reopen dialogues about the differences between the two different offerings.

Small businesses that are already using a free Google Apps account will be grandfathered under the new policy – they won’t lose their basic services. But one has to wonder how long that will remain true.

Microsoft has been closemouthed about Office 365 adoption, but a recent report by TechAisle suggests that about 10 percent of small businesses are actively considering the services.

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