Google Apps have all grown up.
No longer must Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Talk carry the beta tag of shame; they are all now full-fledged members of the Google family of products. Google has been hinting this was coming over the past few months, but is finally ready to make the official announcement along with the news that Fairchild Semiconductor has decided to embrace Google's suite of Web-based office productivity applications.
In truth, it's hard to tell exactly what technical advancements may have prompted the decision to lift the products out of beta. Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise, said the removal of the beta status means that those products have all reached unspecified internal metrics in terms of reliability and usability.
But Google does not have a company standard for determining when a beta project has become a more fully formed product: Gmail was in beta for five years. And paying enterprise customers will still be provided with a 99.9 percent service-level agreement now that the products are out of beta. That's the same level of service Google agreed to provide while they were in beta.
Still, Google thinks there are a number of CIOs that will find Google Apps easier to sell to their bosses if it's not formally known as a "beta" product. "It's something that does send the wrong message," Glotzbach said, referring to the historical definition of the word beta as a not-ready-for-prime-time piece of software. Google is working on developing more formal company-wide standards for how to label products with the beta tag, he said.
In the meantime, Google has added a couple of more enterprise-quality features to Gmail, allowing executives to give their assistants permission to manage their mail and corporations to set e-mail retention policies for their workers, a key feature needed by highly scrutinized companies such as Intel.