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Google Debates Beta Status of Big Offerings

It is curious that the most recognizable brand in the world, Google, seems to be afraid to truly step out into the gmail-logoreal world in many instances. As pointed out by Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch, 4 out of the 5 core Google apps offerings are still in Beta. The very recognizable names are Gmail, Google Docs, Google Talk and Google Calendar with Google sites being the only one that does not carry the Beta label.

For many this will fall in the category of “So what?” but apparently it isn’t in the Google inner sanctum. Google appears to be moving past the “We can do just about anything and no one will care” phase which is a result of their growing dominance in more than just search. Subsequently, it starts to look funny when one of your services, in this case Gmail, has 147 million users and you still use the Beta tag. TechCrunch has confirmed that Google execs are seriously considering moving away from this tactic because it is getting in the way of enterprise account adoption of many of the services..

Maybe they should start to put quotes around the word Beta and start a new category of release status. Google Gmail “Beta” could imply that they are kind of sure that they want this to be a real service but not quite ready to commit. Sort of like a commitment ring rather than an engagement ring. That way they still have some wiggle room for future excuses.

Once again you may ask “So what?” Apparently, enterprise level customers are the ones that are asking the bigger questions like “Can I trust something for enterprise level use that still carries a Beta label?” That kind of thinking can get in the way of Google taking away market share from that little company down the road, Microsoft, who is the 800 pound gorilla in the corporate applications world.

Arrington states it well

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.

Enterprise IT folks need something better than than that to stick their necks out for. When brought out into the light it really does sound awful silly to play this game and then actually get away with it. Most small businesses and individuals using these services don’t even notice the labels anymore but there is no escaping that the slack that Google is trying to cut itself with word play. It is beyond where a multi billion dollar powerhouse should be and should be allowed to be.

Basically, Google is recognizing that it needs to move ahead and sit at the grown up table. Let’s be honest, all applications are in Beta to some degree since nothing is ever fully completed. Microsoft has suffered plenty of slings and arrows because of how their products work when they are in general release but at least they have the guts to release it. Heck, if the world waited for perfection when it comes to technology we would all still be pounding out messages on rocks with hammers and chisels. Playing word games to take the pressure off of actual performance however is something that is not acceptable. Google’s brain trust is starting to get it.

So expect some changes in the near term. Whether they are publicized or not will be interesting because Google could simply remove the tags and move on without drawing more attention to the fact that they have been leaning on their Beta “out” for too long. Arrington continues

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.

I really had not given this much thought until now but at least the enterprise world hasn’t been giving Google a free pass on this. Maybe the rest of the world shouldn’t either.