Google is ending availability of its free version of Google Apps’ online application suite for small businesses, citing a need to offer a stronger and more uniform experience to users.
In a blog post on Thursday, Google said small businesses with ten or fewer users will have to pay to use its online app platform. Until recently companies this small were exempt from any licensing fees. All businesses regardless of size will now be charged $50 per use, per year for the service. Google Apps will remain free for individual users.
Existing Google Apps for Business users with free accounts will be able to carry on using the service without paying the subscription fee, but businesses small or large wanting to sign up from now will have to pay.
“Google Apps for Business” which the company charges for, is an enterprise solution that provides users with email, calendar services and an online office suite which can be installed on a private domain. Google also provides 24-hour phone support for this service. This service which Google says has over 40 million users competes directly with Microsoft’s “Office 365” online service.
Since launching a paid version of its online product in 2007, Google has slowly decreased the number of users a business is allowed to have while still being eligible for the free service. In 2009, the number of employees was set at 50 users, and in 2011 it was lowered to ten users before this latest announcement ending the free portion of the service.