Google Apps feeling the pinch? New signups to Free edition soon limited to 10 users
With Office 365 looming, you might think Google would be looking to become more competitive, but instead they've announced today that they will be placing stricter limits on the Free edition to force more businesses to start coughing up: from May 10, only schools and non-profits will be allowed to have more than 10 users without paying (currently it's 50).
Starting on May 10, new organizations (excluding schools and non-profits) with more than 10 users will need to sign up for our paid service, Google Apps for Business, which offers valuable features designed for businesses – customer support, more generous storage limits, a 99.9% SLA, and more. This change will allow us to deliver on the expectations of our small business customers and invest in new features that will help them succeed.
The change only affects new signups, but does affect new personal customers who don't qualify as "non-profit". Personally I always saw the Free edition as a way for Google to drive people towards Business, but clearly they aren't seeing the conversion rates they've hoped for.
I also found the free service a good way for the family techie to set up a central email system using a custom domain name for family members, but I guess it will only be useful for small families now. Still, at least the free edition exists, which is more than Microsoft offers.