Google is to change the licensing of its Apps productivity suite, heavily reducing the maximum size for companies that opt for the free version.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Hunter Middleton of the Google Apps product team said organisations signing up for the free Google Apps would, from 10 May, have to have no more than 10 users — the current limit is 50. Those with more than 10 users will have to subscribe to the paid-for Google Apps for Business, unless they are a school or non-profit organisation, in which case they may qualify for a free package.
According to Middleton, the change will allow Google to "deliver on the expectations of our small business customers and invest in new features that will help them succeed". He noted that only new customers would be affected, and existing customers of the free version can still expand up to 50 users without paying.
In the same post, Middleton also announced flexible billing options for Google Apps. As of sometime in the next few weeks, customers will be able to opt for a $5-per-user-per-month deal with no contractual commitment — currently, the service costs $50 per user per year.
"With this plan, businesses can add or remove users as necessary and will automatically be billed for the proper amount," Middleton wrote, adding that new customers will also no longer have to pay upfront for Google Apps, paying at the end of each month instead.
Direct Debit payments will also be allowed in the US, UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain, he noted.