Google Apps Outside Google.com
Google has launched a signup form for Google Apps, which would allow organizations to put Google tools on their own domains in “private label” versions. The tools currently being offered (and this is in beta) are Gmail, Google Talk, Google Page Creator, and Google Calendar. You can sign up at https://www.google.com/a/. It looks like services for the term of the beta will be free, but after that it will cost, but organizations who sign up for the beta will continue to receive services for free (that’s how I’m reading it.)
(And I’m a bit surprised that Google’s doing this, really. Traditionally search engine companies have had a very difficult time serving the general public and enterprises at the same time. It seems that usually the company eventually gives up and spins off/ sells one of the two focuses. Of course, Google’s TOS for this service makes it very clear that they’re not responsible for support or providing end-user help, so maybe they see themselves as more of a only-slightly-involved hosting service.)
You’ll need a Google account to sign up. Once you’re signed up, Google asks you a bunch of questions, including organization name, type, country, how many accounts you need, what you’re currently using, your level of involvement in tech decisions in your company, etc. (A couple of the questions are optional.) From there you go into the administration/nuts-and-bolts of setting up an account and choosing the Google services you want to run (you can run two out of the four available.) Google has well-documented this process and has lots of help pages.
Obviously anyone who has privacy concerns vis-a-vis Google is not going to want to do this, and as the Google Apps TOS makes it clear that Google can serve ads, some users might have an issue with having their employees peppered with ads while trying to do their work (and possibly being distracted away from what they’re supposed to be doing?) Getting some of these services up and running, like Google Mail, requires a certain level of nerdness that may be daunting, like adjusting MX DNS records.
On the other hand perhaps a group of organizational users are already scattered across several different free Web mail services and an administrator would find it easier to gather them all in one place. Or the organization has Web mail from their Web hosting service and finds it minimal compared to an offering like Google Mail. I can equally come up with reasons for an organization to try this and for them to avoid it completely. The more interesting question to me is: will Google be able to successfully and profitably balance offerings for the general public and for enterprise users? Will the method of advertising serve as a sufficient (and sufficiently profitable) common denominator for those two groups?