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But it's time to remove the ridiculously long-lived "beta" tag from Gmail anyway. Google is already treating the service like a production-level product:
- Gmail goes down for a couple of hours, and Google gives business users 15 days of free service. The only thing that separates this from a real service level agreement is the published terms of compensation for the time lost.
- IMAP and POP3 access to Gmail accounts never went down, so a properly prepared user could have worked around the failure of the browser-based interface. All you needed was a copy of Outlook Express, or Mozilla Thunderbird, or any old e-mail reader you like.
- It's hard to call Gmail "experimental" or "not ready for general use" when it sports 31 million monthly users. Only Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) AOL can boast bigger webmail services, and Google is closing in fast on all of them.
- The "beta tag" has been affixed to the Gmail logo for nearly five years now. It's time to either dump this fair maiden or put a ring on her finger. And I don't see a breakup happening.
So slap together a term sheet and redesign the Gmail logo, Google. You don't want web-service upstarts like IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) , or even Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) to come up with their own business-level webmail services, snagging corporate accounts from right under your nose. That "beta" moniker is sure to keep several potential buyers at arm's length.
Like I said, Google is already treating Gmail like serious business. The company might as well make it official and reap the benefits.