Google has finally removed the 'beta' tag from its Gmail, over five years since the service launched back on April 1, 2004.

Gmail sheds the beta label, alongside three other hugely popular Google apps this week — Google Calendar, Docs and Talk.

Google currently claims that over 1.75 million companies worldwide run their business using Google Apps, many of which are likely to be very small operations and 'one man bands'.

A growing speck

Matt Glotzbach, a Director of Product Management at Google informed the NYTimes:

"Obviously we haven't had a consistent set of policies or definitions around beta, it was time to address the issue and bring the products out of beta. For business customers, it is an important sign in terms of the maturity of our product offering and commitment to this business."

Mr. Glotzbach added: "I've had C.I.O.s tell me that they would not consider a product labeled 'beta."

Mr. Glotzbach admitted that added that Google was a speck, but "a fast-growing speck" in the market for productivity applications.

Different meaning of 'beta'

Google notes on its own blog that its own definition of 'beta' is somewhat different to the accepted, industry-wide meaning.

"Ever since we launched the Google Apps suite for businesses two years ago, it's had a service level agreement, 24/7 support, and has met or exceeded all the other standards of non-beta software. More than 1.75 million companies around the world run their business on Google Apps, including Google.

"We've come to appreciate that the beta tag just doesn't fit for large enterprises that aren't keen to run their business on software that sounds like it's still in the trial phase. So we've focused our efforts on reaching our high bar for taking products out of beta, and all the applications in the Apps suite have now met that mark."

The blog post adds: ""Beta" will be removed from the product logos today, but we'll continue to innovate and improve upon the applications whether or not there's a small "beta" beneath the logo. Indeed, today we're also announcing some other Google Apps features that we think will appeal to large enterprises: mail delegation, mail retention and ongoing enhancements to Apps reliability."

Via New York Times and Google Blog