Taking aim at Microsoft's hold on a portion of the business-software market, Google on Thursday unveiled Google Apps Premier Edition, online...

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Taking aim at Microsoft’s hold on a portion of the business-software market, Google on Thursday unveiled Google Apps Premier Edition, online software that includes e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets at the bargain price of $50 a year.

Rather than live on your personal computer, the tools to create a document or build a spreadsheet will be accessed via a Web browser to reach Google’s computer servers.

The release of the enhanced version of the free online software package Google issued in August comes as Microsoft is pushing its Office 2007 software suite to go with its new Vista operating system. Versions of Office range from $149 to $679, according to Microsoft’s Web site.

The big question is how willing businesses and individuals will be to shift from in-house software such as Office to tools that reside on remote servers dependent on an Internet connection.

And while Office can cost hundreds of dollars more than the Google package, the Microsoft product has features, including the PowerPoint presentation software, that Google lacks.

Working in favor of Google’s online tools, in addition to the price difference, is the fact that companies won’t have to devote resources to maintaining, upgrading and repairing problems that might develop with the software.

David Hawk, dean of the School of Management at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said some businesses may migrate portions of their work to the Google platform, but he doubts there will be a significant short-term shift.

“A piece of a company will experiment with it to see how it works or how it doesn’t work. There’s bound to be hiccups and a lot depends on how big those are,” he said.

The business edition of Google Apps links all functions of the free version, including word processing and spreadsheets, Gmail webmail, Google Calendar shared calendaring, Google Talk instant messaging and Internet telephony, and customizable start pages.

It works with any PC operating system and most software, including Microsoft’s.

Google Apps Premier includes a hefty 10 gigabytes of storage, compared with 2 gigabytes in the free version; enhanced access for customization by companies; guaranteed 99.9 percent uptime; and round-the-clock technical support.

Nicholas Economides, a professor of economics at New York University, said Google Apps are far less sophisticated than software such as Office. Still, he said, such applications could become a threat to Microsoft’s dominance.

“I don’t see an imminent change in terms of businesses going away from the PC and doing everything online. For some people, it could be a significant benefit, but for most businesses it is not going to make a difference,” he said.

Whitney Burk, a spokesperson for Microsoft, said that while “customers benefit from competition,” the market for software is so large that “it’s no wonder everyone wants to get in on this opportunity.”