Google will start charging small businesses to use its Google Apps productivity suite as the company mines previously free services for new revenue streams.
Businesses with 10 or fewer employees will now be charged $50 a year — the same rate paid by larger businesses to use the Web-based tools, which include e-mail, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation graphics tools.
The move will allow the Web giant to focus on the quality of the business user’s experience, Google explained today in a company blog post.
“Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes,” Google said.
Individual consumers will still be able to get a free version of many of the products, such as Gmail, Google said. And existing business customers who use the free version will continue to get it for free, though they will not receive the additional services included in the premium version.
More than 5 million businesses use Google’s Apps, Google said earlier this year, though it did not distinguish between customers who use the free or paid versions.
The move marks the latest change to Google Apps, which until 2011 was available for free to businesses with 50 or fewer people.
In June, Google launched the Google Compute Engine, which provides online computing services to a limited set of customers.
Google, the world’s No.1 Web search engine, generates the bulk of its revenue from online advertising.