Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk were all stripped of their beta tags on Tuesday as Google upgraded the pieces of its Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite to the status of a finished product.

After five years of industry snickering and corporate complaining, Google removed the Apps from beta and hopes more business customers will choose its pay-for GAPE service over suites from Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and others.

Google also announced that it is adding other enterprise features including replication of messaging data stores among various Google data centers. In the coming weeks, Google will add the ability to delegate e-mail accounts to assistants, and the capability to set e-mail retention policies.

Gmail, which was first released April 1, 2004, was still in beta for five years and now has tens of millions of users. Why did Google take so long to take it out of beta?

Obviously we haven't had a consistent set of policies or definitions around beta, said Matthew Glotzbach, Google Enterprise product management director.

Glotzbach said that different teams at Google had different criteria for what beta meant, and that Google felt a need to standardize those. It was time to address the issue and bring the products out of beta, he said.

For business customers, it is an important sign in terms of the maturity of our product offering and commitment to this business. I've had C.I.O.s tell me that they would not consider a product labeled 'beta,' he added.

Google hosts Google Apps on its own servers. Users access standard editions of Google Apps for free, but businesses can pay $50 per user, per year for GAPE, which includes a service-level agreement, greater security, 24/7 support and more storage.