Google beta offers domains beyond

Test provides hosted e-mail accounts that feature the user's own domain instead of the search giant's.

Google has launched a beta for hosted e-mail accounts that feature the user's domain instead of

The hosted-Gmail beta, which is going head-to-head with a similar beta that Microsoft launched in November, is offering 2GB of storage, e-mail search tools and a control panel to manage user accounts, aliases and mailing lists, as part of its test version.

The beta is open to businesses, organizations and schools, according to Google's blog site. The search giant points to San Jose City College as one school that is testing hosted Gmail, offering its students e-mail accounts with the domain of

Google's beta follows on the heels of a similar one Microsoft launched in November. The Microsoft Windows Live Custom Domains beta features hosted e-mail and instant messaging.

The Live Custom Domains service, however, was aimed at consumers who wanted up to 20 e-mail accounts, with 250MB per address for an existing domain. Microsoft's hosted beta also included security features such as virus scanning and spam filtering.

The battleground for hosted e-mail accounts appears to be taking shape among the industry titans, but it has yet to be seen whether it will quickly accelerate, as did the offerings for large e-mail storage by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

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