Google is dividing the release of new features in its Apps suite into a Rapid Release track and a Scheduled Release track. Rapid Release will allow Apps administrators to gain access to new features as soon as testing and quality assurance are completed. Scheduled Release will allow customers to have access to new features on a weekly basis, with a one-week advance notice and time for IT administrators to test new features.
Google said one of the advantages of this new process is that customers can gain access to new features as soon as they are ready. More than a hundred new web-based features for Apps were released to customers in 2010. But, the company said on its web site, some customers have requested more notice before getting new features in order to prepare. The two-track system is intended to provide a balance between rapid innovation and advance notice about changes.
'Ideas, Insights or Suggestions'
In a video posted on its Google Enterprise blog, Group Product Manager Rajen Sheth explained that new features start as "ideas, insights or suggestions from customers," with the best ideas turned into software code by engineers, and then stress tested.
The features are then rolled out to testers, after which they move into the two tracks. Users in Rapid Release will be able to utilize new features immediately, while Scheduled Release will make those features available after they have been tried out in a test domain by a company administrator.
The selection of tracks can be made in the Google App Administrator Control Panel. Users who already had "pre-release features" enabled in the control panel will be placed into Rapid Release. Otherwise, an organization will be placed on the Scheduled Release track by default.
New features will be released on the Scheduled Release track every Tuesday, the company said, and updates will follow the initial release of those features. Administrators will be able to use a test domain, educate support staff, and communicate changes to users.
Accessibility for the Blind
Google Apps includes Gmail, Contacts, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Sites. Up to 50 accounts can be used by individuals, groups and entrepreneurs for free. Google Apps for Business, with controls and features designed for companies, costs $50 per user per year, and schools can get many of the same apps as for business for free.
The company is also launching a new portal to provide information on all Apps releases, at whatsnew.googleapps.com.
While Google is working to make the new Apps features more accessible to administrators and business users, one group isn't happy with the accessibility. The National Federation of the Blind is asking the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to investigate whether New York University and Northwestern University are discriminating against blind employees by using Apps, Education edition. The organization said Apps contain "significant accessibility barriers" with computer screen technology that converts screen text into synthesized speech or Braille.