Being in Beta is cool. So cool that five years after its April 2004 launch Gmail is still held in Beta by Google. That’s despite the fact that it has 146 million users worldwide (Comscore, April 2009). Which is sort of ridiculous.
Now we’re hearing that Google is having an internal debate about removing the Beta logos from a number of products that are aimed at enterprise customers.
About half of Google’s products were still in Beta at the end of 2008. Retaining the Beta notation in the logo gives the company a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card when problems occur. Hey, it’s still in Beta, so don’t be surprised when something goes wrong.
There’s a problem though. Sure, users think Beta is geeky and fun and cutting edge. But it turns out that enterprise customers are a little more serious about stuff working. A Beta tag means what it’s supposed to mean – not fully baked. Stuff that isn’t fully baked has risks, and guys that run IT at companies aren’t fans of risk. They need things locked down. And while they’re smart enough to know that Google’s Betas aren’t really Betas, they aren’t going to take a risk. If something goes wrong it’s their fault.
That’s why Google took Chrome out of Beta just a couple of months after it was first released. OEMs need release software to install it on PCs, so they had to move it along. Marissa Mayer talked about Google Betas in general, and Chrome specifically, at the Le Web conference in Paris last December – the relevant clip is below.
Don’t look for Google to give up their love of Betas in general. But they may remove the Beta notation from a number of Google Apps services, which are aimed at enterprise customers, sometime soon. A source first tipped us off that a debate was going on at Google, and we’ve subsequently confirmed it. Some top execs feel strongly that the Google Apps products need to have the Beta notation in their logos removed to get some enterprise customers to even consider switching from Microsoft Office.
Four of the five core Google Apps services are still in Beta: Gmail, Google Docs, Google Talk and Google Calendar. Google Sites, previously Jot, is the lone exception. We may see those Beta notations coming down soon, though. Stay tuned.