Google Moves into Business Software

Google made moves Sunday to enter the business software market by introducing a suite of applications that include e-mail, communications and calendaring capabilities that are already offered separately by the search provider.

The Web-based applications will be offered for free, and seem to be a competitor to Microsoft's Office Live product.

Google Apps for Your Domain includes the e-mail service Gmail, a Web-based version of its Google Talk software, Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator, a Web site design application. While in beta the service would be free, although Google may charge those who sign up for the product after the beta ends.

In its current form, Google Apps is intended for small businesses and organizations. However, by the end of the year the company plans to offer a version of the service useable by large corporations and government agencies.

While IT administrators would have complete control over branding, color scheme and content, all data would be stored by Google on their own servers. The services would use a company's own domain name, which Google said would require some changes to domain settings in order to accomplish.

In a further challenge to Microsoft, the search giant is considering adding both its Writely Web-based word processing application as well as Google Spreadsheet to the service. If Google does include those applications, and markets it widely, it would be the first serious challenge to Microsoft's Office productivity suite in several years.

However, Google executives are quick to play down any talk of "replacing" Office, saying the services would likely run side-by-side on many office computers. Instead of replacing, executives say they are "looking for new ways" to solve common productivity issues.

Analysts disagree with the executives, however, saying Google's moves clearly position it to directly compete with Microsoft in the business software industry.

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