Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gmail now available to everyone

Gmail now available to everyone
Google's web-based e-mail service Gmail - or Google Mail in the UK - has been made available across Europe.

Gmail's unique selling point when it was launched in 2004 was masses of free storage space, currently 2.8 gigabytes.

Its trial service in the UK and elsewhere has run for more than two years, allowing rivals Hotmail and Yahoo to catch up.

Google now also offers downloadable software for mobiles, which makes it easy to read emails on the go.

Known as Gmail in most countries, it had to change its name to Google Mail in the UK and Germany due to trademark disputes.

A by-product of moving from the invitation only system should bring to an end a current spate of people making money by selling Gmail addresses.

Gmail was already freely available in US and a few other countries.

Users can now freely sign up to Gmail in across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Brazil, Australia, Russia and Japan.

Applications to use Gmail on mobile phones are now available in the UK, Germany and the United States.

Google charges for web programs

Google charges for web programs

Google has introduced a paid-for version of its web applications it hopes will be popular with small firms.

The paid version adds more storage, phone help and guarantees of availability to the Gmail, calendar, word processing and messaging package.

Industry analysts suggest the move is aimed squarely at Microsoft and its Office suite of programs.

At the same time BT and Microsoft signed a deal to create a marketplace of web-based programs for small firms.

'Brutal timing'

Google's new service costs $50 (£27 or 40 euros) for every account and for this customers get phone support, a guarantee that the online applications will work 99.9% of the time and 10 gigabytes of storage for each e-mail address.

The package of programs available includes e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, calendar and Google Talk.

By paying, users also get the option to turn off the adverts that usually populate the free versions.

The free version of this package was introduced in August 2006 and Google said that more than 100,000 businesses had signed up.

Google hopes that the chance to collaborate on key documents via the web will prove popular to small firms who are more used to e-mailing copies back and forth.

Analysts said the announcement was intended to give people an alternative to Microsoft's Office 2007.

"The timing is just brutal for Microsoft," said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research. "It's definitely a shot across their bow."

In related news Microsoft has revealed details of a partnership with telecoms firm BT to create a marketplace for a series of business programs designed for small businesses.

The subscription-based marketplace will host all the programs itself and allow small businesses to use the different applications as a service.

As well as generic applications such as payroll programs the marketplace will also host niche applications designed for particular types of small businesses such as dentists and estate agents.

A spokesman for BT said it would be signing up software firms to make the programs soon and that it was aiming to launch by the summer.

Broadband Britain 'speeding up'

Broadband Britain 'speeding up'
Broadband is getting faster in the UK but some customers are not reaching the speeds that service providers have advertised, shows a survey.

The average UK broadband download speed is now 2Mbps, up from 512Kbps three years ago, says

The figures are based on more than a third of a million speed tests carried out by the website's users.

But many people who have been sold "up to 8Mbps" services are still getting substantially slower connections.