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Gmail says bye-bye to "beta"

By Andrew Heining / July 7, 2009

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It took more than five years, but Google has finally torn the "beta" label from its popular Gmail Web e-mail service.

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But what's in a label? In a blog post Tuesday morning, Gmail Product Director Keith Coleman announced the name change – effective across all Google Apps sites: Docs, Talk, Calendar, and Gmail. Coleman suggested that perhaps the traditional meaning of "beta" no longer applied to Web applications, particularly those, like Gmail, that have had such significant development and wide adoption.

Who would pay for "beta"?

Utility and popularity aren't the only reasons the "beta" tag is gone. "Many of the companies that have looked in depth at the apps have seen that they are feature complete," Rajen Sheth, a Google senior product manager, told the AP. "But there is a kind of perception thing, and in many cases that stops companies in their tracks from even looking at it."

The name change may be symbolic, but Google believes strongly enough that it will make a business difference to make the move.

Last month, Google tried another tactic to woo business: it allowed IT folks to dress up Gmail to look like Outlook. That move aimed to ease employees into the switch. Rather than teach workers a brand new program, Google has found a way to let people run Gmail and its calendar tool through Outlook. The program looks, feels, and runs just like Outlook, but all of the behind-the-scenes work runs through Google, instead of Exchange servers.

What's next?

Much has been made of Google's expanding reach, particularly about its increasingly large presence in communication. At five years old, Gmail is ancient by Google standards. Google Voice, which just began to be made available to the public, offers a one-stop shop for telephony. But Google Wave, which has yet to make its public "beta" debut, offers a look at the next generation of Google products – and maybe of communication itself.

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