Let me preface this by saying that these are my own thoughts, and do not necessarily represent those of Google.
That being said, I'm pretty excited about tonight's launch of Google Apps. We've chopped the "for Your Domain" from the name -- doesn't "Google Apps" have a nice ring to it?
But besides the improved name and the fact that I've been working on Google Apps, why am I excited?
Let's start with Gmail...
The flagship application of Google Apps is Gmail. I was first invited to use Gmail for personal email shortly after it launched. Gmail was obviously better than the Yahoo mail I had used before, but still, it took me a good year to wake up and start forwarding everything to Gmail. I've been a happy camper ever since.
While my personal email solution continually improved, my email solutions at work and at school persistently stunk. Prior to Google, I had used four email systems at various companies since high school: Lotus Notes, Oracle Collaboration Suite, Microsoft Exchange, and Webmail.us. I don't know what the system was at Cornell -- but sadly, I don't have any of my emails from when I was in college :(
With all the email systems I've used other than Gmail, I've had to delete emails because of low quotas. I've lost emails and often struggled to find the information I need.
I only became happy with my work email solution once I started forwarding my work emails to Gmail. At JotSpot this was encouraged, but at most companies, this practice is either taboo or expressly forbidden.
With Google Apps, we're giving businesses and schools the ability to offer Gmail to their employees and students through a legitimate mechanism. This will be a great improvement for end users and administrators.
...and let's not forget about the other apps...
Google Apps includes calendaring, IM, word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Each of these applications offers its own advantages over older solutions. We use Google Apps internally at Google, and it's wonderful having universal calendaring and IM systems. Docs & Spreadsheets is probably the application I spend most of my time in outside of Gmail and easily handles 90% of my word processing and spreadsheet needs.
But it's the fact that we're starting to package these applications together and provide them as a comprehensive solution that makes Google Apps a legitimate platform for use at work and at school. And, of course, these products will only get better with time, and I suspect we'll add other applications that fit well with the suite.
...and, last but not least, Google Apps is ridiculously cheap (i.e., free).
The last reason I'm so excited about Google Apps is that we've set such a low barrier to adoption. Businesses and schools can adopt it in their organizations for free, no strings attached. If Google didn't already have such an amazing infrastructure, this wouldn't be cost-feasible, but evidently we can pull this off. Pretty amazing.
For businesses with certain advanced needs, we're offering Google Apps Premier Edition, which costs just $50 per user per year. Not free, but still remarkably cheap considering it would normally cost hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars per user to set up similar services.
If you happen to control the domain name for your business or school, it takes just a few minutes to set up Google Apps for your group.
And if you don't control the domain name but are tired of using email systems from the 1990s, you should start complaining. Most people who control DNS settings are the last people who will want to adopt Google Apps -- these guys will have less work to do if they don't have to maintain hardware and software. If you want to bring these solutions into your office or school, you're going to have to demand it.