Oh, the irony! On the day that Chris Anderson’s Free is released, Google decides to take a bite out of free.

TechCrunch reported earlier today that the Standard Edition of Google Apps had disappeared. Based on the image in their post, you can see the comparison of the Standard Edition and the Premium Edition. This comparison no longer exists, but the Standard Edition does seem to be available:

You can actually still see the free version at this page. But it doesn’t appear to be linked to from any Google page at this point.

So, what happened and why does this matter? First, it looks like Google is putting the focus on the business and paying customers. The new choices, besides personal usage, are in the image below.

Google Apps ChoicesAs you can see, you can select Business or School. If you select the Business option, you will see a group of links at the bottom of the page pointing back to schools, to non-profits and other choices. If you then click the non-profits link, you get to a normal marketing page with a big signup button which you need to click. When you click that button, you receive the standard business account page which has a “Begin Free Trial” button. Beneath the button is some text:

Not a business? Explore Standard Edition

Once you have reached this page (finally!), you can create your standard account as you did previously.

Now that we now what happened, we need to answer the why. Why did Google hide the standard edition under so many clicks? The point is to have more people using the Premier Edition, obviously. The Standard Edition was their way of building a significant user base. Now they are trying to upsell everyone else. Is this a significant move? Somewhat.

It is significant in that one of the standard bearers of “free” has decided to hide the free option of their software. It is not significant because this is the standard evolution in the freemium model. The big difference here is that Google is very big and constantly in the spotlight, so their every move is analyzed and criticized. The premium version also does not cost that much. $50 per year per user (or just over $4 per month), is very little money to pay for free email management and an office software suite. The premium version is still a great deal for a startup that does not want to use “mycompany@gmail.com” or try to administer their own email servers.

In reality, this should not be significant news, but it will definitely get some attention. However, the irony of this happening on the day that the Free book is released is just too perfect.

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