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Google Apps to end old browser support

Google has told Apps customers that it will no longer support older versions of popular web browsers.

In an email, the company said that moving forward only newer versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari would support Google's suite of productivity tools, which includes Gmail, Docs and Chat.

Google has been pushing Google Apps as an alternative to Microsoft Office and has won over a number of high profile enterprise customers.

Apps users will now be encouraged to switch to Google Chrome or upgrade to a newer version of their preferred browser.

Under the new policy, Explorer 7, Firefox 3.5 and Safari 3 will no longer be supported.

"After August 1st, you may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites with these older browsers, and eventually these apps may stop working entirely," Google's email said.

Google Chrome currently has a 12 per cent share of the global browser market, according to a netmarketshare.com report from last month.

Explorer, which comes preloaded on Microsoft PCs, remains the most popular browser, with a 54 per cent share, followed by Firefox on around 22 per cent.

The timing of Google's announcement is interesting, it coming just a week or so before Microsoft officially launches Office 365 – its response to Google Apps.

Previously, Google has been able to win over enterprise customers with lower costs and the operational benefits of cloud computing.

Office 365 is cheap, cloud-based and already has 100,000 users on beta, according to Microsoft.

It represents a genuine challenge to Google Apps, if it can combine low cost, access-anywhere features with the superior functionality of applications like Excel and PowerPoint.