Google has separated its Google Apps suite into two separate "release tracks": one that provides access to the latest tools as soon as they're ready, and a second that releases new tools on a regular weekly schedule.
"We’re always excited to bring you the newest features as soon as they’re ready, but we’ve heard from some customers with complex IT environments that they’d like more notice before new features are deployed to their users," the company said in a blog post. "To address these requests, we’re happy to announce a new feature release process aimed at helping you balance the benefits of accessing improvements as soon as they're ready with the task of integrating the changes into your organization."
The company now offers a "rapid release" track and a "scheduled release track". The later is designed to let admins test new features and educate their companies before new features actually arrive on their systems. On this track, new features will be released each Tuesday, and admins will receive at least a week's notice after a feature makes its debut in the rapid release track.
Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Sites will all follow this new setup. If you already have "pre-release features" selected on your Google Apps admin control panel – i.e., you were set up to use features that were still in beta – you will automatically be included in the new rapid release track. All others will be put into the scheduled release track. But you can switch tracks via the control panel.
Google has also launched a new site designed to educate Google Apps admins and users. Available at whatsnew.googleapps.com, it's a place "to learn about recent and upcoming features, and find training resources for your users". Google points out that if you switch to scheduled release track today, you may temporarily lose Google Apps features you're already using. ®