Estimating the Future Impact of Google Voice

Is Google Voice Languishing?

For quite a while people felt that it was only a matter of time before Google decided to shutter its Google Voice service. No doubt it was incredibly useful to many people including myself, but it was obvious that Google wasn't paying it much attention. There hadn't been updates for a very long time and unlike the rest of their services, it hadn't received a visual overhaul other than the basic framework such as the menus etc. After the closure of the hugely popular Google Reader, there were many who sounded the death knell for Voice as well.

But it's slowly becoming clear that Google has plans for the service after all. At its recent I/O conference it debuted what it called "Hangouts". It was a revamped messaging and voice solution that brought together all of Google's efforts in this area. The launch of Google+ showed them that there was an important segment of the market that enjoyed videoconferencing and free communications. Many people including myself were disappointed with Hangouts since it was missing many basic features. It still does. However, it's pretty obvious that a deep integration with Google voice is on the cards. This could be a huge deal especially in the mobile space.

But why? What is so special about Google Voice?

Google Voice - Shaking Things Up?
Google Voice - Shaking Things Up?

Shaking up the Industry

More than any other product on the market today, Google Voice has the potential to revolutionize telecommunications in the mobile space as we know it. So far its appeal has been limited because it only works flawlessly with Gmail where you can place and receive calls to the US and Canada for free. You even receive your choice of telephone numbers when you sign up! On the face of it it easy to see why it would present such a big threat. Free Internet calling using telephone numbers on powerful 4G networks or over Wi-Fi – where's the downside? Why would anyone choose to use a regular telephone plan other than the fact that they're probably locked into a two-year contract?

So the obvious question is – why hasn't it happened till now? I can only surmise that Google didn't want to upset the mobile carriers by bringing out a solution that is so blatantly contradictory to their interests. Like it or not, Android probably depends upon the blessings of the telecom carriers more than it should – that's just the way the smartphone market in the US works. But it looks as if they're finally ready to roll it out soon.

Professional organizations however will require a more sturdy solution. Comparing business VoIP products to Google Voice is easy and highlights the importance of choosing a hosted PBX type solution. Google Voice should be more than enough for a regular customer. A corporation however is another matter.

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