Google Apps will no longer be offered free to enterprise users, as the company has decided to enforce use of the premium version for business customers – along with a $50 per user annual fee.
Explaining the decision on the Google Enterprise blog, Clay Bavor, Google's director of product management for Google Apps, said: "When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well. Both businesses and individuals signed up for this version, but time has shown that in practice, the experience isn't quite right for either group."
Bavor explained how business "quickly outgrow the basic version", wanting features such as 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Such features, he said, often take time to be made business-ready.
Google's solution is to offer enterprise users just one choice from now on, with a single licence scheme intended to "make things very straightforward".
A cost of $50 (£31.21) per user, per year will buy customers round-the-clock phone support, a 25GB mail inbox and a "99.9 per cent uptime guarantee with no scheduled downtime".
Google added that individuals can still use Google web apps, such as Gmail and Google Drive, for free, and existing customers using the free version will be able to continue to do so. Google Apps for Education will also remain free.
Google said the new business fees will enable it "to do even more for our business customers".
What do you think? Has Google pulled a classic ‘bait and switch' manoeuvre to lure customers away from paid software such as Microsoft Office, only to begin charging when businesses have become dependent on its ecosystem?
Or is it simply fair enough to start charging for a good system when it's become big enough to require greater financial investment? Let us know in the comments below.