I focused on the fees because they could signal a potentially big shift happening at Google and other Web services companies.
Also important is Google Apps’ focus on communications. Much of the coverage focused on the suite competing with Office, in part because they both have word processors and spreadsheets.
But the real battle seems to be over message handling — e-mail, IM and VoIP. Those services are the foundation of productivity now, and that’s where Google Apps seems to be aiming at Exchange and other Microsoft communications servers.
Eventually “that PBX won’t be necessary,” he said during a speech at a local launch event for Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.
Upcoming products that Gates mentioned may end up competing with Google Apps: Office Communicator 2007, Office Communcations Server 2007 and Voice Call Management for Office Communcations Server 2007.
If nothing else, Google Apps could do for Microsoft’s small business customers what Linux has done for enterprise customers over the last few years: It will give them more leverage when negotiating license deals.