Google has announced that it is taking Microsoft on in the business software arena with the introduction of Google Apps Premier Edition.
The new apps, which will come with a $50 per user account per year fee, will include phone support, additional storage, and a new set of administration and business integration capabilities.
Full features of the new service include 10GB of storage per user APIs for business integration, the promise of 99.9 percent uptime and 24 x 7 support for critical issues.
Google has also said that Premium users will be able to turn off advertising on the service.
Initially launched in August 2006 as a free application for all, the search engine has now said it will offer a business version of its Gmail webmail services, Google Calendar shared calendaring, Google Talk instant messaging and voice-over-IP.
Google Apps Premier Edition now joins Google Apps Standard Edition and Google Apps Education Edition, both of which will continue to be offered for free to organisations.
Google also today announced that all editions of Google Apps now include Google Docs & Spreadsheets. In addition, Google Apps now supports Gmail for mobile on BlackBerry handheld devices.
Google said it has already signed up Procter & Gamble and GEC to the service.
"So much of business now relies on people being able to communicate and collaborate effectively", said Gregory Simpson, CTO for General Electric Company. "GE is interested in evaluating Google Apps for the easy access it provides to a suite of web applications, and the way these applications can help people work together. Given its consumer experience, Google has a natural advantage in understanding how people interact together over the web."
In related news Microsoft has revealed details of a partnership with BT to create a marketplace for a series of programs designed for small businesses.
The subscription-based marketplace will host all the programs itself and allow small businesses to use the different applications as a service.