Google Cloud is pulling the plug on its G Suite legacy free edition that dates to 2006 after preventing new users from signing up for it in December 2012.
The free offering no longer will be available starting July 1, and current users must upgrade to a paid subscription for the newer Google Workspace by May 1 to maintain their accounts and services, according to the cloud provider.
Formerly Google Apps, G Suite was rebranded as Google Workspace with an expanded set of cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools in October 2020. Google Workspace includes Gmail and Google Calendar, Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms and Sites.
The G Suite legacy free edition had a reduced set of business features.
“After you upgrade, you can use your new subscription at no cost until at least July 1, 2022,” Google Cloud said in a post on its site. “If you choose to wait, Google will begin upgrading subscriptions automatically on May 1, 2022. We will upgrade your organization to a new Google Workspace subscription based on the features you currently use.”
Users automatically upgraded must enter their billing information prior to July 1 to complete the upgrade and prevent their subscription from suspension.
“After 60 days in suspension, you will no longer have access to Google Workspace core services such as Gmail, Calendar and Meet,” Google Cloud said. “You may still retain access to additional Google services such as YouTube and Google Photos.”
Customers using the education or nonprofits edition of G Suite at no cost can continue to do so without any service changes, according to the Google Cloud post.
The move to discontinue the G Suite legacy free edition has been a long time coming, said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based Google Cloud partner.
The free edition dates to 2006 under the launch of the former Google Apps and had been available to businesses, organizations and schools. Google Apps was rebranded as G Suite in 2016, but Google had stopped offering the free edition to new customers in December 2012.
“I do not see a significant impact on partners for existing customers, as most users of these legacy services were self-service or have previously moved to paid versions in order to obtain new features and capabilities,” Falcon said. “Partners that work with very small businesses may see an uptick as businesses look to partners for help with the transition.”
Google Cloud would not disclose the number of customers still using G Suite’s free legacy edition.
“Google Workspace is an integrated experience that enables teams of all sizes to connect, create and collaborate,” a Google Cloud spokesperson said. “The legacy G Suite free edition was discontinued in 2012, and it never included the business benefits of a paid subscription like 24/7 support, 99.9 percent uptime and more storage. In 2020, we introduced Google Workspace and tailored our offerings to provide more options to fit our customers’ needs. Since then, we’ve been helping our customers transition to our new editions where there’s more value than ever before.”
Google Cloud parent company Alphabet reported “strong” revenue growth for Google Workspace in its third-quarter earnings results last October. “Robust” growth in both seats and average revenue per seat underscore the “value of collaborative solutions, in particular as people increasingly are embracing a hybrid work model,” Ruth Porat, chief financial officer for Alphabet and Google, said in an earnings call with analysts at the time. Alphabet does not break out revenue for Google Workspace.
Google Workspace — demand for which has been boosted by the coronavirus pandemic and remote work and learning — now has more than 3 billion active monthly users across consumer, enterprise and education, according to Google Cloud. That’s up from 2.6 billion in October 2020 and 2 billion-plus in March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the pandemic. Google Cloud did not disclose the current number of paying business customers, which was at more than 6 million in October 2020.
The rebranding of G Suite to Google Workspace and the added features were intended to reflect the “end of the ‘office’ as we know it,” according to Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, and to set up Google Cloud to better compete for enterprise customers against Cisco’s Webex solution, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.