Yup, like a couple weeks late to the party on this one but it is something that I talked about in earlier posts on ways to set up a branded email address with Google. Not a surprise that Google decided to go to a “premium” model with this platform where you can get a custom branded email account, calendar, documents, and etc with the process. All you had to do was point your DNS to Google and you used the normal “freemium” services that you use already with Google but all in a branded manner.
You can still use your free gmail account and use it to send/receive email using a custom email address though. You just can't use Google Apps unless you pay $50/year if you have 10 or fewer employees at your company. You get a 25GB storage locker for your email (figuratively speaking…) and a guaranteed uptime.
Here's the good news… if you're already setup on Google Apps like myself or many of my clients, you're safe – grandfathered in.
Please note this change has no impact on our existing customers, including those using the free version. And as before, Google Apps for Education will be available as a free service for schools and universities. Also, as the first cloud productivity suite with FISMA certification, we’ll continue to offer Google Apps for Government for $50 per user, per year.
Posted by Clay Bavor, Director of Product Management, Google Apps
More information can be found here: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2012/12/changes-to-google-apps-for-businesses.html