Google Voice has had a sordid past. Starting life as a startup named GrandCentral in 2005, Google purchased it 2007, and then let it sit pretty much dormant until it was re-branded as Google Voice in 2009. Then came all of the hoopla over Apple and/or AT&T kicking it out of the App Store, and Google building a Web version for iPhone users and on and on and on.
During all of this craziness, a lot of people missed an announcement in Nov. 2009 of Google purchasing a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) company named Gizmo5. Some speculated that due to the company specializing in soft phone, or phones that you dial from your computer, technology, that Google might be planning some sort of desktop application for Google Voice. Nothing has been said since that purchase, and numerous people forgot about the acquisition.
All of that appears to be changing according to a rumor from Google Operating System that Google is currently conducting an internal test of integrating Google Voice with Gmail. Apparently the new feature would allow you to call contacts directly from inside of Gmail just like you can currently instant message them. Once you select to make a call a numeric keypad will pop up to let you dial, and you’ll be off to the races. Currently there is a voice chat feature, but that is just for use between people on Gmail and using the Gtalk client, but does not include calling phones.
Some are already seeing this as a major threat to Skype, and I’m afraid I have to ask if they were hit on the head by a rock.
There is no doubt Google is a big name, and it has done a lot of things right, but as of late, product launches has not been one of those things. Google Wave, which people were dying to get invites for at one time, now languishes on life support as more of a joke in the tech community. Google Buzz sure doesn’t seem to be taking off in any significant manner, either.
There is no doubt that people will use a Google Voice soft phone solution, but lets just look at the numbers. As of last Sept. Gmail had a reported 91.6 million users, making it the third largest e-mail provider. According to information released last Oct., Google Voice stood at 1.4 million users. While these are good numbers, these are nothing compared to Skype’s gargantuan 575 million users globally.
Unless Google comes out with some amazing pricing, which would be next to impossible due to how low Skype’s pricing already is, we’re not entirely sure how it would ever catch the VoIP leader, let alone surpass it. The ease of use with Skype, combined with its growing accessibility options, will make it a formidable foe for any new contender that enters the VoIP battle field.
I may very well use Google Voice’s soft phone tool, but as someone well entrenched with Skype, I just don’t see myself changing, and I don’t think many others will be doing it either.
What say you? If these rumors are true, does Google Voice have any hope of taking on Skype?