Late last week, Google let the world know what it has done with GrandCentral, the voip company they bought over a year and a half ago. The upgraded service, Google Voice, is designed to fit inside the world of GMail and Google Docs, and looks really slick. Or at least the marketing package looks really slick, so far the service is only available as an upgrade for existing GrandCentral users. The rest of us just get to watch for now. The blogosphere is of course boiling over about it, and I don’t blame them – this is the first really big thing in VoIP to happen in some time.
Of course Google first dabbled in voice with Google Talk, which isn’t that special and never caught on. This time, Google seems to mean business. They are integrating SMS, Voicemail with transcription, and the concept of one-number for life. Depending on your perspective, this is either really interesting or really horrifying. If you like Google, and can no longer live without GMail and Google Docs, then the idea of adding your SMS and voicemail into that interface is quite attractive. On the other hand, if you are worried about Google taking over the world, then the idea of having them touching text message, voicemail, conversation, and conference as well as all your search traffic and document means that the Kraken has indeed arrived. As for me, I’m wary but I welcome Google’s effort.
We should remember though that it takes a lot of work to really make a dent in this business. Skype, after some 6 years of stellar growth is only now really at scale. What does Google Voice offer that cannot be quickly copied nowadays? Technologically, I hate to say it, there’s not that much special here. A different group of items in the package, but nothing really new. What Google brings to the table is their huge existing cloud infrastructure and the ability to subsidize the next five years of Google Voice development and growth no matter what comes down the pike. On the other hand, as Telephony Online points out, by putting together the bundle they are, Google is going to be fighting on many fronts and their actions are likely to provoke alliances and other changes in the communications landscape.
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