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Wednesday, 23 June 2010 10:19

Google Voice one step nearer to global availability

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Google has made its VoIP service, Google Voice - previously available by invitation only - available to anyone in the USA, but this is but the next step on a path that threatens Skype and many many other industry players.

iTWire was quite excited to read the headline on Google's official blog site "Google Voice For Everyone" followed by the statement "Today, after lots of testing and tweaking, we're excited to open up Google Voice to the public, no invitation required."

So we were rathe disappointed to reach the footnote, added later that said: "Just to clarify, though we've opened up sign-ups, Google Voice is still limited to everyone in the US for now." Nevertheless it is only a question of time before Google Voice goes global putting Google in head on competition with Skype.

And just in case anyone should doubt Google's ambitions, the blog posting was accompanied by a graphical "Modern History of Human Communications" timeline. Recent developments were mobile, sms an VoIP, followed by the "new!" Google Voice. Such hubris! But perhaps justified by potential and Google's ambitions if not by present reality.

Even today, the service offers considerably more than simple telephony. As the blog boasts, at launch it offered "one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like email, free calls and text messages to the US and Canada, low-priced international calls and more."

Since then Google has made numerous additions that more tightly integrate Google Voice with other Google offerings. "A mobile web app, an integrated voicemail player in Gmail, the ability to use Google Voice with your existing number and more'¦sms to email and our Chrome extension," according to the blog.

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Google already claims one million users for this, to date, very limited availability service. And Wired magazine reports that "Google Voice also has native apps for Android and Blackberry phones, while Palm Pre and iPhone users can use the HTML5 app (including to make outbound calls). Google made a full-featured app for the iPhone, which Apple controversially rejected on the grounds it would confuse users."

When you contemplate where Google might be heading with Google Voice it's pretty clear that access from mobile devices will be high priority.

When Google CEO Eric Schmidt delivered his keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress back in February  he made it very clear that developing apps for mobile devices is now top priority at Google, under the banner 'Mobile First'.

"Every product announcement we have done recently [has been available first on a mobile device]'¦The top programmers all want to work on [the new smart] phones because there is something they cannot get on a desktop. It is more specific, it is more human, it is more location-aware more dynamic, more personal. It is more satisfying for them."

Meanwhile, Skype has recently made a renewed push into business communications and video communications introducing a web-based tool that enables manages to monitor and control individual users' Skype accounts and a beta version of a videoconferencing service, available for up to five Windows users.

Google will not be far behind. In May it announced that it was buying Global IP Solutions for $US68m.  Global IP Solutions is a company whose technology delivers high quality, real-time audio and video over IP networks.

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Google made no comment on the announcement, but Global IP Solutions CEO, Emerick Woods, said: "We join Google with a shared vision to transform and accelerate IP communications."

Global IP Solutions claims to produce "the world's most widely deployed technology for processing real-time voice and video over IP'¦enabling service providers, applications developers and hardware manufacturers to differentiate their products to reduce churn and increase customer satisfaction."

Its software is deployed in over 800 million end-points. It claims to have been the first to bring video chat to Android phones. It also provides video chat technology for the iPhone that enables developers to produce videoconferencing applications. It supports Yahoo! Messenger's video calling and has been licensed by Citrix to provide desktop videoconferencing.

That is a very powerful addition to Google Voice. Skype should be very afraid. And so should any other company that lies in the ever-broadening path of the Google juggernaut.

 

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