Google Takes Apps, Including Gmail, Out Of Beta

Hoping to get more businesses to adopt its suite of online *Google* Apps, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) said Tuesday that it had finally dropped the ‘beta’ tag that it had stubbornly affixed to the names of the products for years. In a blog post announcing the move, which applies worldwide, Google said it wanted to eliminate “doubt that Apps is a mature product suite.” The company also said it was introducing several new features that it said should be attractive to IT administrators.

While Google has claimed that Google Apps is “very profitable” and bringing in “several hundred million” dollars a year in revenue, the company has also acknowledged that there have been obstacles that have made some business customers hesitant to shift from desktop to online collaboration. In recent months, Google has introduced several features, including offline Gmail access, Blackberry support, and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Outlook support, to make it easier for businesses to switch.

Reliability has been another issue — and by dropping the ‘beta’ tag, Google will now be under additional pressure to improve that. The products have suffered several high-profile outages over the years, which system administrators have said have made them wary of using them. (Google charges businesses $50 per user a year to use Apps. A standard edition aimed at consumers is free — and is not going away, despite an earlier report Tuesday saying so).

The move comes as Google Apps is likely to face additional competition soon. Microsoft is getting set to launch its own web-based version of Office next year — and Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) has also recently beefed up its own online suite. Google likely wants to get as much as it can from its head start and by eliminating the ‘beta’ tag it can present itself as the established leader in the market, rather than as a company that is still experimenting.