Google Introduces Voice And Video-Chat Service In GMail
You probably have a Skype subscription or use some other VoiP (Voice Over IP) service. Now you have another alternative: Google Voice For GMail and Google Chat! With Google Voice you can now make calls to any phone number from within your GMail account at only 2 dollar cents (Skype charges 2,4 cents) per minute and free calls in the US and Canada. If you are not located in North America you’re officially excluded from this beneficial service as it’s a pilot for now but if you set your language to: English (US), what pops up? Right: your new Google Voice client! That is if you have downloaded and installed the service.
fig 1: Google Voice Introduction Video
The great thing about Google Voice is that it unifies voice services at a low charge with chat and email. As yet Skype doesn’t have the added benefit of email unless integrated with a third party service.
You have to have a GMail account to have access to this service but where GMail was only available by invitation before, Google has just changed it’s policy (in a timeframe close to the release of the new service) and you can now register for a free GMail account by divulging your mobile phone number (which probably indicates Google is planning to further integrate it’s mobile platform with the new browser based service. GMail has many benefits including integration with Google Buzz (somewhat like Twitter), chat, docs and now Voice as well as a huge storage space (the latter with the intent of advertising to your personal preferences as made apparent by key words in your email archive).
fig 2: This is where you’ll find Google Voice In GMail
Apparently Google Voice is not (yet) compatible with the use of the widely spread SIP protocol which drives many VoiP devices.
In the near future Google Voice (along with other advanced and beta services) will be made available in Google Apps as well. If you have a Google Apps account you can request these services by filling out a form.
Ditch the landline?
Before you do: know this. VoiP in general has the drawback that it is not as reliable as an infrastructure as your regular landline so if you have an alarm installation, need to be reachable at all times or want to be able to make distress calls, in other words have the reliability of a landline available to you for whatever reason, it’s better to have both in place.
Fig 3: Google acknowledges (as any VoiP service) reliability issue
VoiP Market Maturing
It may very well be that this step by Google is a sign that the VoiP market for consumers is now maturing and will replace the landline and mobile infrastructures in the next few years or at least make them subservient to an IP based infrastructure which will be primary in the the voice market as well. This means that traditional phone companies will become low margin utilities providers once again instead of the sexy money making machines of the ninetees. Some CEO’s of phone companies have been heard muttering about this possibilty and are rethinking their company’s strategy as we speak. So if you have any (still?), sell your stock and watch the market closely for the possibility of a Skype IPO which is rumoured to be hastened by Google’s recent move.
The corporate market has been doing it for years
Large corporations have known about the benefits of VoiP for years and have virtually unified their offices in different locations by integrating their PBX’s and phonelines with VoiP technology to dramatically lower phone costs. Now with services such as Google Voice possibly opening up the consumer market on a much larger scale by giving virtual monoplosists such as Skype a run for their money, more cheap devices will be developed and cost of usage may be lowered even more dramatically. This will give home users and small businesses similar opportunities.