Google late Tuesday opened an online shop for business software hosted as services in the Internet "cloud."

Google Apps Marketplace launched with offerings from more than 50 companies including Intuit's online payroll program for small businesses, according to marketplace product manager Chris Vander Mey.

"Today, we're making it easier for these users and software providers to do business in the cloud with a new online store for integrated business applications," Mey said in a posting at the Google website.

Cloud programs are hosted on the Internet, eliminating the need for people to buy, install and maintain the software.

"We've found that when businesses begin to experience the benefits of cloud computing, they want more," Mey said.

Applications featured at Apps Marketplace synch with programs in a suite of applications that Google offers as online services.

More than 2 million businesses have taken to using Google Apps in the past three years, according to the California Internet giant.

Google's applications challenge software programs sold by rival Microsoft, which makes the bulk of its money from selling or licensing software that is installed on users' computers.

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