It's G-Day: Google Launches Apps Premier

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The day that everyone knew was coming has arrived with the announcement that Google has launched Google Apps Premier, its subscription package of premium, hosted business applications in direct competition with Microsoft.

Michael Arrington posted this afternoon about a rumor of an undetermined major announcement from Google set for tomorrow, now the Wall St. Journal reports that Google Apps Premier has launched.

Google Apps for Your Domain was launched in August. The Google Apps for Your Domain page has already been updated to reflect tonight’s announcement. The service will include the existing Google Apps tools – GMail, Google Calendar, Google Talk and IM as well as the Google Docs applications that were just integrated into the suite today. Webmail will come with 10 GB of storage and Apps Premier includes service level agreements that promise 99.9% uptime and 24/7 tech support. A full comparison of the standard and Premier services can be found here.

The service costs $50 per user per year, dramatically undercutting Microsoft’s offerings. Google’s package does not currently include a presentation tool like Power Point or a CRM application. The most likely next addition to the package could be an enterprise version of Blogger. General Electric and Proctor and Gamble are cited as among the first Google Apps Premier customers.

One major concern that hangs over the head of tonight’s news is the ongoing question of Google security. TechCrunch asked for months whether business users would or should trust Google Apps with sensitive business information given the regular lapses of security experienced by the company’s hosted services. See a timeline and discussion of those lapses in this post.

Other skeptics have raised concerns about Google’s growing ubiquity and previously unfathomable access to information. Such power undoubtedly carries a political risk that no one can take lightly. The first post I wrote when I started working for TechCrunch was about the prototype ambient audio contextual advertising and search presented by Google Labs in conference this summer.

There are many different ways to look at tonight’s announcement. The discussion via Techmeme includes posts focused on everything from Apps Premier as a complex offensive move not intended to generate revenue to Google’s now greatly expanded call center needs and the Terms of Use that make service termination a bigger risk in office software than ever before. Lots of posts worth reading.

Beyond competition and concerns, tonight is a good time to recognize the incredible force of innovation that Google is as well. Its nearly full-service suite of sophisticated, integrated online services is something of historic proportion. Google’s technological brilliance is only beginning to be recognized. What do I mean by that? I mean that with its powerful algorithms to analyze and contextualize information, combined with its growing catalogue of information to analyze – Google is an epoch defining company. Send the world’s business communication through Google and the machine gets a whole lot smarter.

Marshall Kirkpatrick is the Director of Content at SplashCast and will be assisting with TechCrunch while Michael Arrington travels.

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