Google Voice: Asleep at the Switch
I was an early champion of Google Voice, how early? I was using Grand Central before Google bought them. I felt the concept really had legs. I wrote several posts soon after Google launched Google Voice bullish in nature on how Internet disruption finally came to voice.
Over the past few years, I’ve changed my tune. I came to realize that Google didn’t have interest in Google Voice and the service languishes within the Googleplex. UC vendors don’t need to fear Google, but rather figure out how to leverage it.
Yesterday, Google updated its messaging platform, now called Google Hangouts. The new version of Hangouts is a separate application for Android, iOS, and also offers a web interface. Hangouts will also replace Google Talk and G+ Messenger. It also confirms just how dead Google Voice is. Also note: both of the product leaders that Google acquired when it bought GrandCentral have left Google. There has been relatively no news from Google Voice. Personally, I think the service has taken a significant turn for the worse.
The new Hangouts supports IM/presence, video chat, and photos. What’s notably missing is voice, SMS, and messaging. These are the core features of Google Voice. Hangouts was arguably one of the biggest announcements at the Google IO conference – and somehow Google forgot to include Google Voice in the new solution?
Hangouts offers some nice features including: free multi-user conferencing (up to 10 people - free), persistent conversations (even if you change devices), elimination of duplicate notifications, and the ability to start/stop conversations that move across devices. It would be a great UC solution if it could deal with voice and messaging.
Google positions its new Hangouts application as cross platform, however, it doesn’t quite live up to that. Without VoIP, SMS, and messaging it is just another consumer app not ready for prime (enterprise) time. Nor does it offer support for Windows Phone or Blackberry devices.
Currently, the best enterprise vendors in position to leverage this are AVST and Esna. They both support Google Apps including chat with strong UC integration. But the APIs are there – both on the Google Apps side as well as the UC side. gUnify is moving quickly to build out a solution optimized for UCaaS. Watch this space.
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