Google Apps for domains in Beta has provided thousands of small businesses and organizations a way to offload their email systems while keeping their own email addresses, as well as other ways to stay connected and communicate. The benefits of web-based applications continue to increase as these web services become more capable and reliable each year.

Last year, Forbes crowned Google as the leader in web-based applications for small businesses, crowning Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Notebook, and Google Spreadsheets as the best in their class. As they continue to expand, they’ve made the decision to start charging a subscription fee of “a few dollars per month,” for Google Apps, according to a recent Business Week article. As they continue to expand, they’re attempting to take on larger corporations, even Universities who will pay for all of the benefits.

One example of this is the Walt Disney Company.  They’re in the process of finding a good replacement for their homegrown e-mail system that they’ve used for quite some time.  The Senior Vice- President for technology at Disney, Greg Brandeau says that Microsoft with Outlook ,Exchange, etc. isn’t what they’re looking for.  Instead, they’re looking towards Google Apps.

Part of the expansion of Google Apps includes adding in a word-processing and spreadsheet service to the suite.  Brandeau says, “We’re dying to use something like this.” So is Google capable of handling a company as large as Walt Disney, and should Google be considered competition for Microsoft?

Well, according to Google they’re perfectly capable of handling something as large as Walt Disney, and no, they don’t consider themselves competition for Microsoft.  In fact, Google themselves agree that they don’t have all of the bells and whistles that you’d find with some of Microsoft’s products like email backups. What they do have though, is simplicity and ease of use.

Douglass Merrill who is Google’s vice president for engineering says, “For the first time, consumer-grade applications are good enough that they can be used by enterprises.” Google says it’s not an us vs. them type of a deal because their goals are very different from Microsoft’s.

Another example? Arizona State University is switching their students over to Gmail, Google Calendar, and a customized start page this month.  This could easily start a trend among universities as they look for email solutions that are more affordable and easy to use for their students.

Microsoft isn’t totally out of the loop as far as the online applications go.  Microsoft Office Live is a pack of services offered for$39.95 per month for businesses which includes email, calendar, and other services.  Here in Iowa, there’s rumor of Iowa State switching to Microsoft Office Live.  Students would get addresses with no advertisements while in school, and after graduation they get to keep the address, but with the addition of advertisements in the inbox.

Clearly, web-based applications are the next big thing. For a few dollars a month, Google will offer their application services for domains. The good news if you’re wanting it for free? Digital Inspiration points out that “Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.”

Source: Business Week