Google Voice: 5 Truths Behind the Hype

Why did Google add voice capability to Gmail -- and what's next? Consider these five facts to put the new Google Voice in perspective.

By
Thu, August 26, 2010

CIO — Google made a news splash when it introduced a new VoIP functionality to Gmail yesterday. Gmail users based in the United States and Canada can now dial and accept calls right from their computer—a seemingly cool feature and thrifty alternative to placing long-distance calls (international rates start at 2 cents per minute).

But let's put the news in context. How does this new offering fit with Google's business model? How will it fare with the public users and businesses? And will it kill Skype? Charles Golvin, principal analyst with Forrester Research, weighs in with five facts that you should remember about Google's recent announcement.

1. Communications are increasingly integrated.

In the past, you'd likely log into your instant messaging application to IM your friends. If you wanted to call or text someone, you'd use your cell phone, and if you wanted to send an e-mail, you'd use your computer. Those silos are disappearing now, Golvin says.

"All of these are being integrated into one experience. The mechanics of communicating are less important—now it's more focused on letting you have the communications you want in the mode that you want them."

Rather than being revolutionary, Google's integration of Voice with Gmail is a natural progression, Golvin says. Instead of using multiple means to communicate, you can place and receive phone calls, send text messages and e-mail your contacts, all from one central location—your Gmail account.

2. It's a Convenience, Not a Game Changer.

What's the driving reason for people to use the integrated feature? Convenience, Golvin says. So don't expect mobile users to give up their devices anytime soon.

"You need a lot of incentive to cause consumers to change their behavior," he says. "People have cell phones with plans that have an abundance of minutes and special features, so it would take something drastic to make people change their ways."

Instead, people will use voice calling in Gmail when it's convenient, he says. For example, if you're having a back-and-forth e-mail correspondence with someone, it might be easier to click a few buttons and speak to him through your computer to resolve your conversation quickly. The same goes for those times you leave your mobile phone on your coffee table—when you get to work, scroll through your Gmail contacts and place a call.

"I don't see people using this too frequently," Golvin says. "It's just a convenience, not a game changer."

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies