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Google is making some changes to its Google Apps cloud computing services for small businesses. In the past, Google Apps was free for groups with up to 10 users, but from now on, new small business customers will be required to sign up for a paid plan. However, SMBs that already signed up for free accounts will be grandfathered in to the free service.
Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin reported, "The free version of Google Apps for businesses that was offered to organizations with up to 10 employees is being killed off. The free tier was long touted as an advantage of Google's online office suite over Microsoft's productivity products, but in an announcement yesterday Google said the service wasn't useful to enough people to justify its existence."
According to The Wall Street Journal's Amir Efrati, "Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president in charge of Google Apps, said Google wants to provide small businesses that use the free version of the software with dedicated customer support—something only paying customers currently get. 'We're not serving them well,' he said of the free users. Mr. Pichai added that the millions of people who already use the free version will continue to get it free."
ZDNet's Michael Lee recalled, "Google Apps was first born when Google provided Gmail for San Jose City College in 2006, and a year after, Google launched its premier edition for all businesses. At the time, Google Apps' lead software engineer, Derek Parham, wrote that 'Google Apps also won't forget its roots anytime soon. The Standard and Education Editions will continue to be offered for free, and we'll keep working on all three flavors of Google Apps with the help of feedback from all of you.' While that might remain true for the Education Edition — Google is keeping Google Apps free for educational institutions — there isn't a free version for individuals any more."
The Register's Simon Sharwood noted, "Office 365, Google’s main rival in the online apps market, currently offers only paid plans. Both companies offer free trials."