Despite the fact that news of 3D video communications and holographic projection technology is currently dominating the blogosphere, Google has decided to take a different approach in its effort to become your one-stop tech and telecom solution by reaching into the past and securing a place in…the phone business.
In an effort to compete not only with the likes of Skype and other VoIP operators but also with Microsoft Hotmail and other email providers, Google is set to release an expansion for their popular Gmail service, allowing users to make phone calls to regular telephone landlines across the continent absolutely free.
While neither the offering of VoIP calling services or email services are particularly revolutionary, it looks like Google will be the first major company to combine the two in an fully integrated fashion, just one more step for Google towards controlling your Internet experience.
But beyond the likes of Skype and Microsoft, a greater threat to Internet communication dominance stands in Google’s way, and it happens to be a little website called Facebook.
There’s little question that Facebook constitutes the entirety of many people’s Internet experience. They log in, chat with friends, give pointless status updates, look at pictures, and log out. The problem for Google is that its long-term goal is simple: it wants to control everyone’s Internet experience. But with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter dominating people’s Internet viewing, there’s little time—and little reason—for people to spend more time with Google’s services.
That’s where integrating Google Voice into Gmail comes in. If there’s one service that has been an unprecedented success for Google, it is Gmail. Although the long-term fate of Google Buzz, the search engine giant’s answer to Twitter and Facebook, still hangs in the balance, having a Skype-like VoIP option will, in my opinion, certainly sweeten the deal.
In fact, if there was anything that might enhance the attractiveness of using Google Buzz as one’s social networking solution, it’s that the button right underneath it can make free phone calls anywhere in North America.
The fact that Google Voice is fully integrated in Gmail means that you can easily send or receive calls in Gmail and have Google Voice use your contact book to store and access phone numbers. Further, the fact that this service works just like a normal phone—you hit the button “Call Phone” and dial a number—means that it will come as great news to all those who suffer through poor cell reception in their home or workplace.
There is one particular feature, however, that really caught my attention. It turns out that with Google Voice, even if you’re talking to someone from Gmail, you can seamlessly switch the call over to your mobile phone, without the hassle of having to drop the call and reconnect.
While it remains to be seen whether or not users will be attracted to Google’s one stop social networking and communication hub, the fact that Google has made placing a VoIP phone call literally as easy as checking your email means that the gauntlet has been thrown down to VoIP, email, and social networking providers.
Now its time to see who else steps up their game.