"We wanted to demonstrate that we believe so strongly in this product that we run our own company on it," says Douglas Merrill, Google vice president of engineering. "Internal use of Google Apps should validate any requirements Google makes for business users," says Merrill. "In addition, it will improve the product for customers of all sizes, since any features added by Google’s engineers will benefit all users."
"We began this migration project with the rule that Google is just another customer —we would not do anything special for our version that we wouldn’t also do for others," says Merrill. "If you start down the path of doing special things internally, that fragments engineering resources and creates a separation between what you do for yourself and for others."
The migration was staggered over two weekends. Google engineers began moving its own Gmail accounts to establish the infrastructure. Then the team concentrated on migrating the calendaring system, which was more challenging given the ever-changing (and repeating) nature of calendar entries.
Google successfully migrated thousands of Google employees to the Google Apps email, instant messaging and calendar applications. Google continues to offer a choice in email platforms. Employees can use Gmail or an IMAP email system with a variety of front-end client applications.
“Fundamentally, we believe in choice over control,” says Merrill. “We encourage people to use our own mail, because we want to better business requirements and generate more creativity in improving mail systems. This in turn will benefit our employees as well as our customers.”
All 10,000 plus Google employees have adopted some or all of the applications included in Google Apps. Since Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Talk were already used by many Google employees in their personal lives, they quickly embraced the new solutions at work. Google employees have also taken to using new products like Google Docs for collaborating on projects.
Google Apps currently comes in three editions: a Standard Edition that is completely free, a Premier Edition that costs $50 per account, and a free Education Edition for K-12 schools and universities.