Google Friday is adding a domain registration service to its collection of online communications tools that include e-mail, instant messaging and calendaring.
Google Apps for Your Domain provides those tools free to companies, but those companies must have a domain name they use on the Internet such as mycompany.com.
Google has now incorporated a domain registration service into the sign-up for Google Apps for Your Domain, which is targeted at as nonprofits, small businesses, universities, large companies, and ISPs. Google officials say their research shows that nearly 50 percent of small businesses, defined as those with less than 100 employees, do not have a domain.
"We will give you a simple single-step process," says Raju Gulabani, director of product management for Google Apps for Your Domain.
Google has integrated with its online registration process the ability for users to buy a domain for US$10 in the .net, .org, .biz and .info domains. The registration automatically configures all the Google services for the newly acquired domain.
Google Apps for Your Domain includes Gmail with two gigabytes of storage per account and integrated instant messaging and search tools, Google Talk for IM and VOIP services, Google Calendar, which can be private or shared, and Google Page Creator for creating and publishing Web pages.
In mid-November, the company added the Google Start Page to the package. The Start Page provides one place from which a user can access any number of applications.
Companies can customize the Start Page with their logos and use it to display content provided in HTML, from RSS feeds or from a Google personalized home page.
The company says the Start Page can be used for internal employees, customers or external visitors.
Google is pitching the service as an alternative to installing local applications and infrastructure to support collaboration services. The Google service sets up a direct competition in terms of features with basic communications tools and infrastructure from Microsoft and IBM and with smaller vendors such as CommuniGate , Gordano , IPSwitch , Mirapoint , PostPath , Rockliffe , Scalix Sendmail and Zimbra .
The first version is free for domain administrators and users, who can mix and match the hosted applications they want. Google also plans a premium, fee-based version for users with more advanced needs.
Google says the premium version will ship early in the first half of next year, but it is already offering hints about how it may be constructed based on a version of Google Apps for Your Domain customized for education called Google Apps for Education. The package is a collection of collaboration tools and an API set for back-end integration.
Google is using standards such as the Security Assertion Markup Language to support single sign-on and a Representational State Transfer-based XML interface to link to directory services.
Google officials have said the features are the kinds of things they are thinking about for the enterprise edition of Google Apps for Your Domain.
Google also has released in beta a set of productivity applications called Google Docs & Spreadsheets, a combination of Google's Writely word processing service and Google Spreadsheet.