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Google plans more services for business users

August 28, 2006 11:01 IST

Moving beyond search technology, Google plans to expand its services for business users providing them with a special software package, which will include e-mail, calendar, chat programmes and a special website development tool for companies.

The move is a "starting point" for Google in catering to business users, its vice president and general manager Dave Girouard was quoted by The New York Times as saying.

Initially, the package will be free, but later this year Google plans to begin selling a version that includes additional features as well as technical support.

While Gmail is currently supported by online advertising, the other three programmes contain no advertising, the report said.

According to Girouard, the immediate goal in offering the free services is to increase the number of people and companies using its technology.

Girouard said he expected the pay service to appeal to larger organisations.

The New York Times says he would not discuss any plans for pricing.

Google's software offerings beyond search are focussed on communications and enabling workers to collaborate, but the company is testing spreadsheet software and a word-processing programme called Writely that will soon be offered over the Web, the paper says.

When that happens, analysts say, the company will be in even more direct competition with the likes of Microsoft, which is moving to deliver more of its software to businesses over the Web. A number of smaller software companies already offer calendars, e-mail and other applications online.

"I think it's going to put Google head-to-head with Microsoft, especially when it comes to price-sensitive markets like small business and education," Matthew Brown, an analyst at Forrester Research in Boston, was quoted by NYT as saying.

For small and medium-size businesses, the new Google services, called Google Apps for Your Domain, could produce huge savings in technology support costs, he said.

As Google encroaches on the business software territory that Microsoft has traditionally dominated, the daily says, Microsoft has responded by adding online Web services to its desktop software and beefing up its Web offerings, particularly in search services.

Last year, Microsoft announced Office Live, a Web service aimed at helping businesses collaborate on spreadsheets and other documents. While each of the Google services has already been available to consumers, the package for businesses is aimed specifically at organisations that want to offer them in turn to their employees.

Companies, the paper says, can use Google's Gmail programme, for example, to set up a corporate e-mail system with software for both the server computer and individual users.
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