Google's Gmail (email), Calendar (scheduling), Docs (word precessing) and Spreadsheet (calculations) require nothing but a web browser and an internet connection, while giving many "light" users the same capabilities as the Microsoft Office package. All for free. Will Google's services remain free? Who knows. One thing is clear -- it's incredibly difficult to give something away for free, then start charging for it in the future.
Google is now packing its services for internet service providers (ISPs) and other web-based portals what have millions of customers as a way to get that package of productivity software out into the hands of even more users. Its Google Apps Partner Edition packages all of the above-mentioned applications and more to give Google internet partners a complete bevy of web-based applications they can offer customers as a value-added service. Google even offers a pay edition ("Premier") that promises guaranteed availability and more email storage than its free editions. Will customers pay for the upgrade? These efforts are icebreakers for Google in seeing if it can create a revenue model off service subscriptions and outside advertising.