Google Tests Services Suite For Businesses

Customers, ranging from small businesses to universities, will be able to "private label" the services as their own although they will all be hosted on Google infrastructure. The beta goes live Monday.

That mimics what Microsoft plans to offer with its Office Live Essentials services pack, soon to hit beta. That hosted offering will give users a Web site personal domain names and e-mail addresses ,

At year's end, Google plans to offer a fee-based version of the bundle although pricing details were not available.

"Google Apps For Your Domain" melds existing gMail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Page Creator web page creation tool. It does notas yetbring in the Writely word processor or Google Spreadsheet, but such additions could be on the table, said Rajen Sheth, product manager for the services bundle.

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The current test is an expansion of the company's existing gMail For Your Domain, which quietly went live in February, Sheth told CRN.

Google has other, more consumer-oriented bundles. Google Pack combines the Google Desktop, Toolbar and Google Earth, with a photo organizer, non-Microsoft browsers and other freebies.

Many solution providers look at the advent of these freebie business tools as a challenge to their own SOHO-supportive businesses. "This is not an opportunity, it's a threat," said one mid-west VAR who says one customer has held off on buying either on-premises or hosted e-mail services from him until after evaluating this Google offering.

Sheth said Google does not mean this to be a threat to partners but it is unclear what role solution providers can or will have in Google-hosted services. Microsoft executives up to and including CEO Steve Ballmer have said its hosted services will offer opportunities to partners going forward, although that model still has to be worked out. .