E-mail and other Web-based office programs from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) have won the U.S. government’s seal of approval.

The certification announced Monday means that Google Inc.’s online applications such as word processing and spreadsheets meet the federal government’s security requirements for storing most data. It’s the first time the U.S. government has certified a bundle of software programs delivered over the Internet, a concept known as "cloud computing."

On its website, Google claims more than 2 million businesses already use Google apps and adds that “thousands more sign up every day.”

“Powerful, intuitive applications like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs can help reduce your IT costs and help employees collaborate more effectively – all for just $50 per user per year,” Google says.

Google hopes to capitalize on the endorsement by selling its bundle of online programs to more government agencies. That goal is likely to intensify Google’s rivalry with Microsoft Corp., whose Office suite of programs is widely used by government agencies and businesses.

As part of its sales push, Google has designed a version of its applications specifically for government agencies.

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