Google is well-known to muscle in on the territory of other companies, trying to win even more places it can put its omnipresent ads. As of late it has been a bit quiet, spending a lot of time tweaking already existing tools, and while the latest move could be seen as just another tweak, it could also be taken as a large shot across the bow of the king of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), Skype.
Yesterday Google officially announced integration of Google Voice into its popular Gmail e-mail system. After a small download from Gmail.com/call, and restart of your browser, you are able to place phone calls from directly in the interface to any phone in the world. Residents of the United States (we're unsure about other countries) can place free calls to anyone in the United States and Canada, and you can get low rates on international calls. Is this all sounding vaguely familiar?
While Google Voice has been around for some time now, it has been treated as a separate entity. To use it you had to log into another Google site before you could use its features, and now with integration into Gmail, it's going to be just that much easier to use your email as a total communication hub. Get an e-mail that you think it would be more appropriate to call with your response? Click a button. Looking up a phone number in your contacts? Click and call. Google is removing extra steps to make sure that you never have a reason to leave their page again (and in turn, their ads).
One of the oddest things to come out of this is at the press conference for the launch they showed off red phone booths that look like the type you see in England. They will be branded with the Google Voice logo, and as opposed to being a landline connected to it, they will be hooked up to an Internet connection so you can make calls from them. No word on how you log in with your account, which one assumes you will need to do, but they will be available at airports and college campuses around the country by the end of the year. Top that, Skype.
The thing is, Skype already has a good foothold on the VoIP market with over 500 million users, and businesses have embraced it due to the ability to register phone numbers and get cheap calls with Skype Out. It will be difficult for Google to woo people away from Skype, but this seems like a good start.
What say you? Will you use Google Voice more now with the further integration?